Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Architect in Third World Countries

As a junior in high school, my knowledge of architecture and its different branches is limited. What I do know is that I love to design, create and build. As I plan for my future, I see myself becoming either an interior designer or an architect. Currently I am leaning more towards architecture. As far as colleges go, I visited the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and loved it, but I have also been looking into UC Berkeley, specifically their department of Environmental Design and Urbanism in Developing Countries. You see, I am very much interested in working overseas as well. I have a passion for helping the impoverished and am hoping to use my skills as an architect to benefit society.  

As far as my education goes, I am thinking about a major in architecture focusing on sustainable design with a minor in cultural anthropology. I am hoping that this will prepare me to work on projects overseas in underdeveloped communities.
Recently I came across the organization, Architecture for Humanity and also a book titled NEEDS: Architecture in Developing Countries which highlighted 16 different projects across the world in building sustainable design in rural and impoverished communities. 

I am wondering what your thoughts are on this specific career path. I know there is a high demand for engineers in developing countries, but not so much for designers. Is becoming a “third world” architect even practical? And are there other architects who share my desire to truly help society and change lives?
First, I applaud your thought process on your future career paths.  If you can envision your future, making it happen is the easy part. 

As you note, pursuing a career as an architect or designer in a third world country may be a challenge, but is worth the effort.  I do think a number of architects share your passion to help society and change lives.  Consider the following resources in planning and launching your career.  Not all are international, but would be helpful.  After the list of associations are books to consider obtaining --

If you have not heard of him, I would begin to model yourself after Cameron Sinclair, the founder of Architecture for Humanity -

Best and let me know how else I can help.

1201 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20525
AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that engage more than 50,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.

Architects without Borders
295 Neva Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472                     
Architects without borders is a non-governmental, not-for-profit, volunteer humanitarian relief organization

Architecture for Humanity

848 Folsom, Suite 201
San Francisco, CA 94107-1173
Architecture for Humanity promotes architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises.  Through competitions, workshops, educational forums, partnerships with aid organizations and other activities, Architecture for Humanity creates opportunities for architects and designers from around the world to help communities in need.

Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility

P.O. Box 18375
Washington, DC 20036-8375
Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) works for peace, environmental protection, ecological building, social justice, and the development of healthy communities.

Association for Community Design (ACD)
P.O. Box 712308
Los Angeles, CA 90071-7308 USA
Established in 1977, the Association for Community Design (ACD) is a network of individuals, organizations, and institutions committed to increasing the capacity of planning and design professions to better serve communities.  ACD serves and supports practitioners, educators, and organizations engaged in community-based design and planning.

Design Corps
302 Jefferson Street #250
Raleigh, NC 27605
Founded in 1991, Design Corps is a private nonprofit that was created to coordinate design services that help create responsive affordable housing.  Respect for those housed, the local communities and cultures involved are encouraged. Motto: Design for the 98% Without Architects.

Habitat For Humanity International
121 Habitat St.
Americus, GA 31709-3498
(229) 924-6935
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian housing ministry that works to build or renovate homes for the inadequately sheltered in the United States and in twenty countries around the world.

The Mad Housers, Inc.
534 Permalume Place
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 806-6233
Mad Housers, Inc. is an Atlanta-based non-profit corporation engaged in charitable work, research, and education.  Their primary endeavor is building temporary, emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender, religion, age, family status, sexual orientation, etc.

Peace Corps
Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters
1111 20th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20526
Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps has shared with the world America's most precious resource—its people.  Peace Corps Volunteers serve in 72 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East.  Collaborating with local community members, volunteers work in areas like education, youth outreach and community development, the environment, and information technology.

Public Architecture
1126 Folsom St., #3
San Francisco, CA 94102-1397
Established in 2002, Public Architecture is a nonprofit organization that identifies and solves practical problems of human interaction in the built environment.  It acts as a catalyst for public discourse through education, advocacy, and the design of public spaces and amenities.

Architecture for Humanity, (2006). Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises. New York, NY: Metroplis Books. ISBN – 1-933-04525-6
Design Like You Give a Damn is a compendium of innovative projects from around the world that demonstrate the power of design to improve lives.  The first book to bring the best of humanitarian architecture and design to the printed page, Design Like You Give a Damn offers a history of the movement toward socially conscious design, and showcases more than 80 contemporary solutions to such urgent needs as basic shelter, healthcare, education and access to clean water, energy and sanitation.

Bell, Bryan (2003). Good Deeds, Good Design: Community Service Through Architecture.  Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN: 1-5689-8391-3
Good Deeds, Good Design presents the best new thoughts and practices in this emerging movement toward an architecture that serves a broader population. In this book, architecture firms, community design centers, design/build programs, and service-based organizations offer their plans for buildings for the other ninety-eight percent

Bell, Bryan and Wakeford, Katie (eds.) (2008). Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism. Metropolis Books. ISBN: 1-9330-4578-7
Expanding Architecture presents a new generation of creative design carried out in the service of the greater public and the greater good. Questioning how design can improve daily lives, editors Bryan Bell and Katie Wakeford map an emerging geography of architectural activism--or "public-interest architecture"--that might function akin to public-interest law or medicine by expanding architecture's all too often elite client base.


Unknown said...

I am currently an architecture student in college, and I also want to peruse building for developing countries. I am trying to find an organization that I could possibly work for after college, if there is anyone who has information about any of the sites that are listed on this site, can you brief me on them. I know and like the Habitat for Humanity organization, I am just not sure if they are in need of architects as much as they are builders.

Unknown said...

I'm a senior in high school in interested in exactly the same thing! I hope to find an opportunity to study abroad in a third world country while in college and pursue a career with an organization such as the ones listed.

Unknown said...

I really appreciate your views on Architecture, we as architects should always work for the people, and I belong to India, a developing country. India is a place that has accepted many in history and also holds this culture even today. Laurie Baker, Christopher Charles Benninger are some foreigners who settled in India and practice their Architectural profession here, for the betterment of India. What saddens me is the fact that Architects and Engineers of the Indian origin are more focused and concerned about earning good money and work illegally or without much handwork. qudos to you and others in the comment box who look forward to work for developing nation, someday we may meet each other along our paths towards the same destination.

All the best! :)

aybek said...

I think our profession as an architect doesnt nessesarily mean that we must design building only beautiful. The laws of Ancient Greek architect Vitruvius states that architect- archi - main tect - builder must imagine, must plan, must design a building in 3 common properties which are beauty, benefit and durability. So such organizations as Habitat do always need an architect who is able to keep in mind those rules. Good, functional floor plans, good situationaly based basic structure choice often helps to avoid waste. As a student i ve been volunteering in habitat for humanity in Kyrghyzstan an must say to you that this organization is totaly the one which does a real jobs here, not only helping to build but giving long loans for 3-5 years with no percents taken after. Good luck!