Wagah Border

A story of border in the post-COVID 19 era


The Radcliffe Line is the dividing line between India and Pakistan, and upon the independence of these two countries in 1947, it became their common border. From Gujarat to Siachen, it is very strongly militarized and is the site of more or less violent battles. Wagah-Attari is one of only two Joint Check Points on the 3,000 km border separating India and Pakistan.

Land crossing point, Wagah embodies the relations between Pakistan and India, it is regularly the place of bilateral political gestures between the two governments. It is also the place of exchanges of prisoners, civilians or soldiers, captured for violation of territory.

Since 1959, every evening at sunset, the same military ritual punctuates the day of the security forces of both camps: the flags of the two countries are lowered in unison, the border guards on each side begin a series of elaborate and staged maneuvers. These regulated choreographies play at the same time the rivalry and the cooperation between the two countries.

In 2000, the Indian tourist office decided to take advantage of this spectacle by transforming Wagah into a tourist attraction dedicated to these military ceremonies. A U-shaped step was then built near “point 0”. In reaction, the Pakistani authorities did the same, and built a large platform across the border. For 20 years now, tourists and curious people of all stripes have taken their spots every day at the border guard lift, in this mismatched stadium, built on both sides by barbed wire.




IL FOGLIO - JUNE 17th 2020

Romanistan India2

It’s a story of architecture.

The two buildings that face each other are post-modern compositions of poor quality, each assembling the tier and the door. On the Pakistani side, the entrance is treated like a pishtak flanked by its two minarets, inside a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah is supported by a series of false full-hanged and multi-lobed arches adorning the official gallery. On either side of the central body are the steps at 45 °. On the Indian side, the buildings are more imposing. A number of ornamental elements evoke Indo-Muslim architecture, imitation pagoda, bulbs, polylobed arches ...

The art of building well is here supplanted by that of defining limits. The interest of the place is indeed more in the formalization of a gesture of "entourage" than in its effective implementation. These uncoordinated shapes came, spontaneously, to contain a symbolic thickening of the border, making visible its bilaterality and therefore the recognition of the other.

The space is divided by a double grid in the middle of which passes the invisible border. Architecture, by setting limits to the limit, makes possible its ambiguous celebration: what do the choreography of bodies and respect for protocol tell us?

In her neutrality, she seems to serve only the event. Stadium without a field, we think of the sambodrome of Niemeyer. Architecture is one with a ceremony, which as soon as it passes through the void. There remains geometry, matter and time, in a word: the monument.