For this installment of our recurring series Screen/Print, we are featuring an excerpt from the book Urbanisms of Remittances by Husos, which traces the role remittances have in the built environment and how global flows of money have shifted the formal architecture and the local economy of the receiving regions. Rendered in several graphic formats—from dynamic comic strips to paper models—the book explores how globalization means a house, a community, or even an entire city can be designed by systems that reach far beyond the local.

Urbanisms of remittances

(Re)productive houses in Dispersion

  • by Camilo García and Diego Barajas

This project is about urbanisms of remittances [1], city constructions financed by small amounts of money that transnational workers send periodically to their loved ones in their home countries, and focuses on the diaspora of Colombians from the coffee-growing region of Risaralda who have settled in parts of the world such as Spain and the USA [2]. 

The flow of global migration has meant that the amount of remittances sent annually worldwide is now almost $600,000 million. This figure is four and a half times larger than the financial aid for development granted by wealthy nations [3]. That is to say, the work of migrants has become the most important form of external economic support—despite being for the most part a fragile one, based on precarious jobs—upon which developing countries depend. To a large degree, these remittances are used by the families that receive them to cover basic living expenses and in reproductive or caring activities such as buying food, and paying for health care and education. But they are additionally used in the construction of houses and neighborhoods for transnational families, i.e. those made up of migrants working abroad and their families who continue living in their countries of origin. Many of the decisions concerning the building of these houses are made from a distance by way of telephone calls, text messages and emails, or during real estate fairs targeting immigrants and their loved ones, which are held in various cities where immigrants live in large numbers such as New York, Sydney or Madrid, and which offer residential developments for sale in their home countries. These dispersed urbanisms are currently burgeoning to such an extent that their influence goes beyond the families directly involved: in fact, they are increasingly having repercussions, both material and immaterial, on certain cities in both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres and their respective societies. They have an impact on the way that migrants generate and maintain affections, forms or belonging, and community even at a distance, as well as catalyzing material transformations and—depending on the place—financing the construction of family homes, entire neighborhoods and gated developments whose design and management in turn influence social construction.


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