Houses at Home

Architecture of Displacement

Ajna Babahmetović

Assoc.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Andreas Lechner
Institut für Gebäudelehre
Link zur Diplomarbeit

“Remittance houses” are houses built by members of a diaspora in their countries of origin, with money earned abroad. Empty most of the year, they define a new architectural typology: one built upon the frequent absence, the mobile and intermittent life of their owners. Architectural styles, materials, ways of building, and economic standards of the country of residence are inevitably inscribed in the diasporic architecture. Diasporic houses are, nevertheless, reduced to their facades, stigmatized and othered in the country of origin, reinforcing the narratives of belonging and neo-colonial identity constructs. A migrant is held in liminality, without a right to claim any of the sides. The architecture produced by the migrant, therefore, occupies the same transitional, ephemeral space. Yet, remittance architecture is a global phenomenon, profoundly transforming landscapes, in particular those of “developing” or “third world” countries. Instead of romanticizing and exotifying these structures, inserting them in the discourse and analysing underlying forces which shape them, creates a space for thinking of new development strategies and new ways of being. This study looks at the remittance architecture of Kozarac, a small town in Republika Srpska, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Using ethnographic methods combined with a factual historical, economic and political framework of migration in Kozarac, the project juxtaposes wider contexts of migration, diaspora concepts, sociological/psychological analysis, different analogies, and metaphors to analyse diasporic architecture and unravel the accompanying infrastructures.