Mud Frontier: Architecture at the Borderlands


Set in the remote San Luis Valley of Colorado, Mud Frontier: Architecture at the Borderlands is a feature-length documentary film that follows design studio Rael San Fratello’s experimentation with 3D-printing technology and traditional adobe architecture. The film offers an intimate, tactile look at Mud Frontiers, a project led by artist-designers Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, who use 3D-printing technology to build adobe structures in Rael’s ancestral village in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. In an area where Indigenous and European colonists have historically lived both in harmony and in conflict with one another, Rael San Fratello reflect on this legacy to forge new methods of creative production.

The film is presented by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Smithsonian Latino Center.

Watch the film for free!

Thanks to support from the Smithsonian Latino Center, we are thrilled to offer the entire film to view online for free. (An audio described version of the film is also available on YouTube.)

Watch the Trailer

On his ancestral land in southern Colorado, designer Ronald Rael, along with his partner Virginia San Fratello, 3D-print monumental structures in mud, pushing the limits of technology and materials, while uncovering a dark history along the way.

Film Screenings

Mud Frontier is screening at film festivals and in cities across the US and the world.

Listen to the Storytellers in Conversation

This virtual conversation and Q & A convened Chris J. Gauthier, the film’s director; Christina L. De León, Associate Curator of Latino Design at Cooper Hewitt; and Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, Studio Rael San Fratello founders. It was recorded live on November 17, 2021.

Rael-Gálvez Family Blankets

In this excerpt from the film, historian and writer Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez talks about blankets made by his once-enslaved great-great grandmother that were passed down to him.

Teacher Guide

Use the film in your classroom with this discussion guide, designed for students in grades 10–12.

The Other Slavery: Histories of Indian Bondage from New Spain to the Southwestern United States

This virtual symposium explores the hidden stories of enslaved Indigenous peoples, focusing on the legacy of Spanish colonization in the Americas and Asia and its impact on what is now the southwestern United States. Presented by the Smithsonian Latino Center, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, it was organized in association with the Smithsonian initiative Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past.

Glossary of Terms

This glossary was presented as part of the virtual symposium, The Other Slavery: Histories of Indian Bondage from New Spain to the Southwestern United States.


The documentary film was produced with support from the Latino Initiative Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.