Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s First Female Architect, Awarded Royal Gold Medal for Socially Conscious Architecture
Yasmeen Lari, a renowned ‘starchitect’ turned social engineer, has made history as the first woman to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) since Zaha Hadid. The award recognizes her inspiring work in creating sustainable homes that address the pressing need for environmentally conscious, affordable housing in Pakistan. Lari’s visionary approach to social engineering has earned her a well-deserved place among the world’s leading architects.
Lari co-founded the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan with her husband in 1980, pioneering the design of self-built sustainable shelters and housing. She also designed the self-built Chulah Cookstove, a safer and lower-emission alternative to traditional stoves. Over 80,000 of these stoves are now being used. Since her “retirement” in 2000, Lari has been entirely focused on humanitarian work, which has gained her international recognition. She believes that everyone has the right to good design, not just the elite.
In response to the devastating floods in Pakistan last year, Lari created hundreds of prefabricated bamboo shelters for people in need using locally-sourced materials at a cost of just $108 each. Her efforts are ongoing. RIBA President Simon Allford praised Lari’s mission, saying she empowered the people of Pakistan through architecture and engaged users in design and production. Lari has shown how architecture changes lives for the better by creating affordable projects that address the need for accommodation and basic services.
Now focusing on repairing and regenerating a historic district of Lahore, Lari’s work builds on her commitment to recycling materials and buildings. She believes that architecture isn’t just about brick and mortar, and her work reflects this philosophy. Lari’s recognition by RIBA symbolizes the growing consciousness among young professionals to address societal challenges, and her journey from creating glitzy buildings to her new mantra of “low cost, zero carbon, zero waste” is an inspiration to many.
Lari’s vision and dedication to social engineering and sustainable architecture have made her one of the most influential architects of our time. Her emphasis on sustainability and affordability has given a voice to those living below the poverty line or displaced by natural disasters and climate change. With her new honor, Lari’s message of eco-justice and climate resilience will continue to inspire and transform the world of architecture.
By: Mr. WWK