Category I Border-Crossing Station


The Handbook of Best Practices at Border Crossing (sponsored in part by the United Nations Economic Commission), indicates the “legal framework surrounding international trade, border management and customs is a tangled web.” 

With 57 participating States in Europe, Central Asia and North America and 11 Asian and Mediterranean Partners participating in the development of this border document here are a number of highlights on current issues facing border-crossing stations across the globe:

“1. … securing cross-border transport networks and ensuring international transport development are vital to the task of meeting such regional challenges as lack of access to the open sea, dependence on transit services of neighboring countries, and other difficulties related to market access. This is the context in which we have decided to pool our respective and complementary competencies to produce this unique and timely resource.

2. Entering another country had become a complicated process with a number of contemporary issues such as longer waiting times at borders and more layers of bureaucracy – resulting in additional costs and slower economic growth.

3. …increases in cross-border transactions and in the importance of global trade for national economies are compelling present-day governments to develop more efficient border management processes.

4. Options for the Design of Border Crossing Points, starts with the assertion that the ideal border crossing point (BCP) should provide for efficient processing of lawful traffic, have facilities for detecting violations, but at the same time offer a good image of the State it is representing.”


The design of your Border-Crossing Station should be guided by the principles of innovation, creativity, iconic Identity, sustainability, functionality, efficiency, and either harmony or purposeful disharmony with the neighboring context border depending on the story that you wish to tell through your project. Design solutions should be driven by culturally significant imagery based on the border and the site’s visual and literal unifying elements.

The main design challenges are to determine a suitable scale of station, and to resolve the specific program requirements to work with complex site circulation needs and other contextual restrictions. Buildings may become a network of spaces for determined vehicle crossing checkpoints and/or a series of ancillary support spaces to accommodate the increase in border crossing activities that might be seasonal.

Your design proposal must address the following circulation challenges:

  1. Provide clear circulation patterns;
  2. Offer simple, direct movement of traffic and staff;
  3. Locate service counters so that staff members are visible to the public;
  4. Consider the visual impact of approach sequence;
  5. Accommodate inspections of basic traffic types (determine the types of transportation mode(s) that will use your border crossing station):
Pedestrians: on foot, on a bicycle, on a Segway, on a skateboard, etc
Non-commercial vehicles: defined as traffic ‘not carrying materials for resale or use in manufacturing
Commercial vehicles: defined as traffic ‘carrying goods and cargo for resale or use in manufacturing
Buses: normally bus passengers disembark, then the bus is inspected before the passengers board again

Boat: normally boat passengers disembark, then the boat is inspected before the passengers board again.

Your Border Crossing Station should be sited on a border between two countries chosen by the faculty sponsor and/or the student(s). Some examples include, but of course not limited to: US/Canada, US/Mexico, Syria/Jordan, India/Pakistan, Egypt/Jordan, China/Russia, etc). The criteria for site selection include the following:

Size: The size of your Border-Crossing Station and surrounding grounds may range from 45,000 - 100,000 square feet. The size should be determined by the story that you want to tell with your design, and should be influenced by the modes of transportation that you choose.

Context: The site location is open to any where in the world! Sites can be urban, suburban, or rural. It is important to convey how your site is accessed, especially for remote locations.

Access: If your site is urban or suburban (or even rural) consider the use of public transportation such as light rail, commuter rail, subway, bus, bicycles, etc that provide the opportunity to use your border station.

Following are the required building components to be incorporated in your design proposal:

  • Develop a station that celebrates the entry and exit points between two countries;
  • Select a border site and establish the mode(s) of transportation;
  • Determine the scale of program. Program varies (see outline of suggested spaces below) depending on the particular border site selected;
  • Develop a program that provides for the strongest connection for your border crossing station to selected site. The program should guide development of a rich sequence of spaces connected to concept of project;
  • Explore the design of the architectural vocabulary of the station that reflects the stories of the selected border.

        1. Customs Hall (large span space);
        2. Pedestrian/Bus Passenger Queuing, Processing, and Inspection Areas;
        3. Commercial and Non-Commercial Vehicle Queuing, Processing, and Inspection Areas: including (as determined if needed) areas for animal and agriculture inspection and quarantine;
        4. Customs Inspector Counter/Work Areas;
        5. Customs Inspector Offices;
        6. Dog Kennels: dogs are used to search vehicles and cargo.
        1. Laboratory Spaces (for testing suspicious materials);
        2. Holding Cell/Detention Areas: for holding detained travelers;
        3. Toilets for Offices;
        4. Toilets for Public (accessible to Customs Hall Space);
        5. Data Processing Center;
        6. General Storage Areas;
        1. Outside Parking Areas (Surface): Referral, visitor, staff, and service parking areas should be separated. This should be integrated with the open space;
        2. Impoundment Areas: for seized vehicles and other large items;
        3. Entry Area: Drop off area;
        4. Border-Crossing Station Park: Provides the sequence of space(s) from parking area;
        1. Care Taker Residence (where the head inspector lives or for the overnight stay of inspectors.

* This program should be used as guidance, however it may be adapted. Submissions that significantly adapt the following program should provide Program Edits (1,000 words max) during submission.

The design project must be conceived in structural steel construction. A strategy should be considered that evaluates a method for taking advantage of steel’s properties and characteristics in order to conceptualize and propose a critical evaluation of the design solution.

The design project must be conceived in structural steel construction. A strategy should be considered that evaluates a method for taking advantage of steel’s proper ties and characteristics in order to conceptualize and propose a critical evaluation of the design solution.

Steel construction offers students great benefits for this type of facility as it is ideal for covering long-spans without sacrificing flexibility and aesthetic lightness, multi-story buildings, and quick delivery and assembly in congested urban environments or rural environments. 

Steel must be used as the primary structural material and contain at least one space that requires long-span steel structure, with special emphasis placed on innovation in steel design. The most innovative uses of steel seem to inevitably integrate the use of steel into the design of the project at a primary level (building structure), secondary levels (lateral and skin level) and tertiary levels (building connections). 

The project must concentrate on formulating specific thoughtful concepts and designs and carrying these ideas to a detailed level. The project should be developed with an integrative approach to the innovative uses of building materials and systems—structural, environmental, enclosure, etc.— while maintaining an overall design concept. Participants will develop a selected physical area of the project in greater detail considering the building’s structural and technical issues (lighting, acoustics, sanitary mechanical, and environmental controls) through larger scale drawings showing structure, building skin, and interior spaces. Through rendered perspectives and elevations, the proposals should demonstrate surface qualities including material, color, texture, and light.

Along with structural, tectonic and technical issues above, designs should react to the context (larger regional influences of the border, geography, topography and latitude), climate (sun, wind, light and water), and culture (patterns of interaction rising from human occupation of place). Projects should be designed in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Additionally projects should demonstrate the manner by which they reduce dependencies on non-renewable resources and how all of these responsible environmental activities can be integrated into the architectural vocabulary of your project.

Refer to the International Building Code and the local zoning ordinance for information on parking requirements, height restrictions, set backs, easements, flood, egress, and fire containment. Accessibility guidelines need to be followed; refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with the principals of Universal Design. 

Submissions must clearly represent the selected program and Criteria for Judging and must include (but are not limited to) the following required drawings:

  • Three-dimensional representation, either in the form of an axonometric, perspective(s) (provide a perspective inserted into context), or physical model photographs – to illustrate the character of the project;
  • Building/Site sections sufficient to show site context and major program elements;
  • Building Vertical Cross-Section and Floor Plans to show spatial adjacencies and navigation strategies;
  • Aerial view site plan showing the surrounding buildings, topography, and circulation patterns;
  • Large scale drawing(s), either orthographic or three dimensional, illustrating the use of structural steel and the relationship to building program, skin, navigation through spaces;
  • Site plan showing the buildings context, surrounding buildings, topography and access/circulation.
Submission must include:
  • 4 digital boards at 20” x 20”
  • Illustrate graphically or otherwise the use of steel construction
  • A design essay or abstract (500 words maximum)
  • Program edits (if any): description of any significant adaptations of program (1000 words maximum)

Incomplete or undocumented entries will be disqualified. All drawings should be presented at a scale appropriate to the design solution and include a graphic scale and north arrow. 


+ Download the full 13-14 Steel Competition Program (pdf)