When the term third world country was first coined during the Cold War, it referred to countries that weren’t allied with NATO or Warsaw Pact. At that time, nations of the world were split into three groups; First World, Second World and Third World. As most third world countries were economically poor and non-industrialized, it became a norm to refer to emerging countries as third world countries. Today, the term also includes newly industrialized countries like Brazil, India and China. 

We can all agree that so many factors affect Architecture in any given country. Culture, geographical and financial reasons are among some of these factors, and as these qualities vary, so does Architecture. Like every other country, each third world country has its challenges to overcome, and this has an impact on Architecture.

Some of the solutions to combat these challenges were used before and later abandoned. A lot of them, however, continued to be used today; but usually with a twist. Take China, for instance; Chinese Architecture dates back to over 2500 years ago. It dates back to the Zhou era, and Chinese Architecture has greatly reflected Chinese culture. In the olden days, the Chinese often built wooden homes and built their buildings and structures with rammed earth, stone or brick. The buildings were built to withstand extreme weather conditions like earthquakes, typhoons and floods. 

A traditional Chinese Home

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The Golden Hill Beijing © Samba Juliana – WordPress.com

Fengshui is a design principle that is promoted in the Chinese culture as they believe that the location and orient of buildings direct the flow of qui energy, thereby affecting the inhabitant’s happiness, health and wealth. Chinese Architecture was characterized by south-facing buildings, lumber construction, overhanging roofs and rammed earth buildings. These designs were as a result of the needs and beliefs of the people. As they no longer need to build in order to protect themselves from enemies, they now build to meet current needs. 

Years later, Fengshui principle is still being used in Architecture and is very evident in the use of metal, wood, fire, water and earth. So many urban designs in Chinese Architecture speak on how the influence of Architecture has on the economically. As China is rapidly moving towards industrialization, the Architecture sector isn’t left behind but holds testament to this. Technology and new building techniques and materials are incorporated into its Architecture. The Chinese have been very open to new influences and designs and could argue and it’s a playfield or testing ground for foreign architects. 

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Harbin Opera House by MAD Architects © www.grenlifee.blogspot.com 
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An example of modern Chinese Architecture- Galaxy SOHO © www.grenlifee.blogspot.com 

In most African countries, the traditional and authentic Architecture involved the use of natural materials like clay, mud and grass. Every country’s distinct culture had an effect on Architecture so did the varying weather conditions. Most groups settled in small numbers and over a short period of time, moved to other lands, and the process was repeated. Clay, grass and mud were easy building elements to find for these nomads as they were readily available. The use of some of these materials led to the construction of some of the prominent buildings that still stand today.

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Great Mosque of Djenné  ©inviaggio.club

This is the world’s largest clay building Colonization brought about a change toward urbanism and industrialization. Even though the construction of traditional buildings continued, a lot of them were replaced by western influences. As economic factors also play a factor in Architecture, most African countries, compared to other newly industrialized countries aren’t at the same standards. In spite of this, as most African countries move towards industrialization, many interesting design techniques are being implemented. With most African countries having favourable weather conditions and an abundance of natural resources, sustainability in Africa is an achievable goal. Book luxurious house uses local and organic materials

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Zeitz MOCAA ©Maxim México
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Zeitz MOCAA ©urbanNext

South Africa, for example, has implemented different kinds of design and construction methods in the last couple of years. Most of these include the use of available raw local materials and modern techniques and the renovation of old buildings that foreign influence using new techniques. An example of this is the Modern Contemporary Arts Africa (MOCAA) which incorporates modern techniques but also pays tribute to the city’s industrial past. Without destroying the authenticity of the original building, the use of different building techniques created a good example of a building that stays true to its roots but still functions well in a modern world. Something that every third world country should strive for. 

The recently opened MOCAA is the first Arts museums opened to show African 

Contemporary Art 

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The Nest ©Pinterest
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The Nest ©line.17qq.com

The Nest Architectural Porky Hefer project is one whose traditional building techniques resemble many others that can be seen today in other African countries. This organic home makes use of materials that were locally sourced and some even made on site. All the interior design on this project reflects and represents Africa and its designs. This home is an example of how native and traditional methods can help most third world countries achieve the worlds sustainability goals. 

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Camburi Community Center ©ArchDaily Brasil
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Camburi Community Center ©ArchDaily Brasil

Brazil, like South Africa, has implemented building techniques like the use of local organic materials and the mixed-use of traditional and modern building techniques. There has been a rise in prefabricate materials, for instance which meet the quick need for shelter. Some local materials like bamboo and rammed earth are which are popularly used in most modern constructions. Community centres, schools and homes are just some of the examples in which these techniques are used. but the old architecture is still being preserved. Old Architecture is not left behind is still preserved ad used as an influence to inspire new Architecture. CRU bamboo community centre in Coastal Brazil shows the use of locally sourced organic material

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SysHaus residence in Sao Paulo uses prefabricate materials ©Lijepi interijeri. Internetski magazin.

A lot of other third world countries are starting or continuing to implement both traditional and modern building techniques. By doing so, third world countries can achieve sustainability, while staying authentic to their cultures and also improving the standards of living. 




Zyabo M'hango is an art enthusiast with a huge case of wanderlust. She believes that all forms of art intertwine as one and hence her pursuit of bringing Architecture and writing as one. When she's not working on her design projects, she's planning her next travel destination.