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Remittance Architectures in Risaralda

House built with remittances in El Salvador. Andrés Asturias. Courtesy of the author.

Site Brief:

Site Briefs provide the framework for the In Residence: Call for Intervention Strategies and Call for Associated Projects, and open up architectural questions associated to each site.

Remittances—transfers of capital from migrants to family members staying in the home country—involve not only economic exchanges, but are accompanied by the circulation of technical expertise and new understandings of luxury and success.[1] These flows translate to the design, production, and commercialization of objects and architectures, which enact the long-distance building practices that architecture writer Sarah Lynn Lopez has analyzed. [2]

Due to migratory trends starting in the second half of the 20th century (primarily labor migration), Colombia is the country in South America with the largest emigrant population, primarily located in the United States and Spain. These flows have resulted in robust commercial, social, and cultural networks affecting both the regions of origin and destination: 4 billion dollars of remittances were received in Colombia in 2012, benefitting 10% of its inhabitants.[3][4] This influx of money has fostered new economic initiatives such as Mi Casa con Remesas—an agglomeration of banks, including the Inter-American Development Bank—which offers access to mortgages for families who receive monthly money orders from abroad that pay for the loans on their new homes.

The Colombian coffee-growing region of Risaralda is one of the areas characteristically shaped by the increasing transformation of the spaces of residence resulting from remittances: the renovation and vertical expansion of the preexisting family houses and larger new constructions result in specific programmatic structures. Their augmented dimensions provide the possibility to divide the units into separate spaces for different family members or for rental, as well as to include new businesses on the ground floor as an additional source of revenue. These variations of scale and typology, that result in features such as a multiple exterior access points (as discussed with the reporters of the site Husos), manifest the different social dynamics of transnational families. But these constructions also entail building techniques and materials which follow from hybrid appropriation, making extensive use of mirrored glass, bright colors, pronounced balconies and cornices, and distinct ornamental motifs.

This case allows the questioning of the effects of this architecture on the urban landscape; on international economic transactions and labor fluctuations; and in reflecting the affections, desires and aspirations of transnational communities.

Site Report (A Teaser):

Husos on Remittance Architectures in Risaralda

Reports about the sites have been commissioned from a group of international architects, artists, journalists, and other professionals. The commission for these reports is intended to challenge ideas of ‘site’ solely concerned with geometric boundaries and contextual references. Intervention strategies and associated projects do not need to respond to these reports.

In Residence: Sites

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