8 Contemporary Fences that Step Over the Line

Gabrielle Golenda Gabrielle Golenda

The primary role of fences is to keep the outside out and the inside in; however, preventing escape and intrusion is quite a limited take on the role of fences. More interesting is the function of providing a boundary: fences used to indicate edges and planes instead of spaces that are defined by being enclosed.

Indicating barriers with posts or markings presents unique opportunities to create unexpected moments of inclusion, interaction, and even — god forbid — aesthetic sensibility. From an aqueduct fountain to a celebratory light installation, this collection explores fences that serve as more than just a border, something delightfully unanticipated:

© CODA

© CODA

© CODA

© CODA

Party Wall by CODA, New York, New York

Located in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 in New York, this temporary installation wall clad in skateboard offcuts offers seating, shade, and water during the outdoor events of the museum. The steel-framed structure functions as a giant aqueduct, where water travels along the top of the wall and is forced by a pressure tank into a fountain that feeds into a misting station and a series of paddling pools.

© EKIP

© EKIP

© EKIP

© EKIP

NEIGHBORS by EKIP, Gatineau, Canada

Fences typically represent control and the division of space, but this is not the case with EKIP’s open-ended, playful conceit. NEIGHBORS function as more of an intriguing obstacle than a fence, where passersby are encouraged to approach it for a number of mixed uses: strolling through, touching it, resting on it, getting lost in it, and hiding from the sun.

© Trust In Design

© Trust In Design

© Trust In Design

© Trust In Design

Fresnes Fence by Trust In Design, Fresnes, France

Surrounding the Zac de la Cerisaie school complex, this fiber-reinforced concrete fence is a combination of three freestanding panels, each with a different graphic pattern. The detailed enclosing structure appears on first glance to have some sort of mesh pattern, but upon closer consideration, one can see that the intertwined strands hide various animals.

© Heri&Salli

© Heri&Salli

© Heri&Salli

© Heri&Salli

Landscape Fence by Heri&Salli, Austria

Enveloping this residence to provide privacy from neighbors, the concept of a typical chain-link fence has been elevated into an aesthetic element. Arching and spanning above and beyond an outdoor pool and deck overlooking a lake, the interlocked canopy maintains the residents’ privacy, while at the same time lends spaciousness and fluidity between the outdoor spaces.

METAMORFOSE by FAHR 021.3, Porto, Portugal

Weighing in at six tons, this swooping green steel mesh fence fills the void in the city gateway in Porto, Portugal. It provides a new interaction point between open and enclosed spaces, where disruption between the São Bento train station and the surrounding area is the result of an intimate dialogue with the city and the sum of all of its parts.

© Acre Architects

© Acre Architects

© Acre Architects

© Acre Architects

IN TRANSIT by Acre Architects, Saint John, Canada

Beginning as a bland, monotonous concrete wall, this bus stop was transformed into a colorful public art piece comprised of 85 unique aluminum panels that were sculpted into benches. While most public signage invisibly blends in with itself, IN TRANSIT challenges that, bringing conscious awareness to the language of the road.

© DJA

© DJA

© DJA

© DJA

Installation for the 25th Anniversary of the Baltic Way by DJA, Riga, Latvia

Introduced for the 25th Anniversary of the Baltic Way (a 1989 peaceful political demonstration for independence among the Baltic states from the Soviet Union), this unifying installation was erected around the Statue of Liberty square. Giving spatial depth to the square, the luminous background wall links together the stage, the screen, the speech podium, and the monument for celebratory events.

© Marty Snortum

© Marty Snortum

© Ball-Nogues Studio

© Ball-Nogues Studio

Not Whole Fence by Ball-Nogues Studio, El Paso, Texas

This porous partition fence provides a safety barrier between a baseball field and a children’s playground, while at the same time seeking to engage the attention and imagination of passersby. Located at the northeast corner of Southwest University Park, the sculpted aluminum paneling acts as a veil, permitting varied and partial views into the ballpark.

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