• Yasmeen Lari: 2023 RIBA’s Royal Gold Medalist 10 best projects

    Yasmeen Lari is a pioneering figure in the world of architecture, renowned for her groundbreaking work in sustainable and humanitarian design. As the first woman architect of Pakistan, she has not only shattered gender barriers but also championed the cause of uplifting marginalized communities through her innovative projects. Born in 1964, Yasmeen Lari rose to stardom after winning RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal Award in 2023. She graduated from the Oxford School of Architecture before returning to her homeland to set up her practice. Yasmeen Lari co-founded the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan with her husband in 1980 which became a pivotal organisation in preserving the country’s heritage. 

    The architect is a social entrepreneur, as her works reflect sustainable and humanitarian designs. She believes in social responsibility and works for the marginalized communities of Pakistan, addressing burning issues of poverty, disaster resilience, and heritage preservation. Yasmeen Lari was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architect’s Royal Gold Medal for 2023 in recognition of the large-scale humanitarian work she undertook after her retirement in Pakistan. She is the second woman to win this prestigious acknowledgement after architect Zaha Hadid. In her long prominent career, Yasmeen Lari has worked on large-scale institutional buildings before making a shift towards the ruralscape which she coins as “Barefoot Architecture”.


    Here are ten notable projects by Yasmeen Lari that have shaped her inspiring career:

    Angoori Bagh Housing


    Yasmeen Lari’s appointment to design Pakistan’s first social housing scheme led to the creation of 787 dwellings catering to low-medium income families. With a focus on cost-effective solutions, she skillfully incorporated locally sourced materials to ensure high-quality housing. The cluster dwellings, spanning 2-3 storeys, were built using 70% unskilled labour from Lahore, showcasing Lari’s commitment to empowering local communities through architecture. Her groundbreaking work in social housing continues to make a significant impact on the lives of those in need.

    Islamic Arts Biennale Mosques, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia


    Commissioned to design a sustainable mosque for the Islamic Arts Biennale, Yasmeen Lari embarked on a remarkable endeavour. She ingeniously crafted three dismantlable bamboo mosques that can be easily reassembled at various locations. Each structure boasts a prayer space encircled by a colonnade adorned with pyramidal roofs, offering a serene and inviting ambience for worship. Lari’s innovative approach challenges the conventional use of concrete structures in construction sites, embracing eco-friendly materials to create a more enjoyable and spiritually uplifting prayer experience.

    Zero-Carbon Shelters


    In 2005, Pakistan was struck by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake, propelling the architect to build these celebrated structures. Lari led an initiative to rebuild villages using local resources like mud, stone, and wood, engaging communities in the process. The outcome: eco-friendly, earthquake, and flood-resistant structures. Over 40,000 such zero-carbon shelters were constructed by 2014, making it the world’s largest program of its kind, according to RIBA. These cost-effective and sustainable homes stand as a testament to Lari’s commitment to empowering disaster-stricken communities through innovative architectural solutions.

    For similar article’s on earthquake-proof buildings checkout>>>Top 10 Vernacular Earthquake-Proof Buildings Around The World

    Women’s Centre, Pakistan


    Yasmeen Lari’s humanitarian work shines through in the Women’s Centre in Darya Khan, a remarkable cylindrical bamboo structure elevated on stilts to safeguard against flooding. This project marks the second phase of her career as an architect, where her focus shifted towards empowering vulnerable communities. The Women’s Centre forms a trio of buildings, comprising a school and a health clinic, all sharing the innovative raised bamboo design. Lari’s dedication to uplifting those in need is evident in these transformative and resilient structures, making a positive impact on the lives of the people they serve.

    Lari Octa Green Shelters, Pakistan


    The architect, along with the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, constructed bamboo shelters coated in mud at the Zero Carbon Cultural Centre site, serving as lodgings for conference attendees. The foundation’s Green Shelter Programme aimed to create affordable and eco-friendly housing for underprivileged individuals. Around 600 additional shelters were built in the neighbouring villages of Makli, and 400 more in Mīrpur Khās and Tando Allahyar as part of this initiative. Lari’s dedication to sustainable and low-cost solutions has positively impacted disadvantaged communities in Pakistan.

    The Pakistani Chulah (stove)


    Yasmeen Lari also developed the Pakistan Chulah Cookstove, an eco-friendly solution to counter the negative impact of open-fire cooking. Traditional open fires not only harm the environment by releasing carbon but also pose health risks and promote deforestation. Lari’s innovative stove, fueled by agricultural waste like cow dung or sawdust bricks, reduces firewood usage by 50-70%. Constructed from locally sourced mud and CO2-absorbing lime plaster, the stove features a fire chamber, air regulation pipe, hand-washing area, utensil ledge, and minimal-smoke chimney. Raised on a platform, the stove remains stable during floods, providing families with a clean space to enjoy meals.

    Lari House


    Drawing inspiration from brutalist principles, the architect crafted her residence, the Lari House. Embracing the aesthetics of exposed concrete, the architectural framework echoes the cherished style prevalent among global architects at the time. The Lari House stands as a testament to her creative vision and mastery of design, reflecting the enduring influence of brutalism in the world of architecture.

     Finance and Trade Centre, Pakistan


    During her time at Lari Associates, Yasmeen Lari worked on the Finance and Trade Center in Karachi, a collaborative effort with Canadian architect Eva Vecsei. This modern marvel incorporated contemporary materials and construction techniques, but Lari’s ingenuity shone through by integrating traditional cooling and ventilation methods. By incorporating interconnected courtyards that allow the influx of fresh air, the need for excessive air conditioning was minimized, reflecting Lari’s commitment to sustainability and thoughtful design.

    Pakistan State Oil House


    Yasmeen Lari envisioned a grand complex that would serve as a significant landmark for Pakistan’s largest oil company. The design boasts two expansive wings linked by a striking five-story-tall atrium adorned with reflective glass. Incorporating modern interventions, this construction stands as a true icon in Yasmeen Lari’s illustrious career, leaving a lasting impression on the architectural landscape.

    Karachi re-paving, Pakistan


    The architect, in collaboration with the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, joined hands with underprivileged communities to create terracotta tiles for a pedestrian-friendly street in Karachi’s historic centre. The intricate tiles are skillfully crafted and sold by artisans from deprived villages located near Thatta, Karachi. This empowering initiative not only preserves the rich heritage of the area but also provides economic opportunities for marginalized communities, showcasing the transformative impact of architecture in fostering social and cultural growth.

    With a career spanning decades, Yasmeen Lari’s architectural philosophy revolves around social responsibility, cultural preservation, and environmental consciousness. Her dedication to preserving Pakistan’s rich heritage and addressing the challenges of poverty and disaster resilience has earned her international recognition and accolades. Through her visionary approach to architecture, Yasmeen Lari continues to leave an indelible mark on the architectural landscape, inspiring a new generation of architects to embrace design as a tool for positive change and social impact. Through her innovative projects and community-centric approach, she has made significant contributions to the architectural landscape in Pakistan. Yasmeen Lari’s work serves as a powerful example of how architecture can address social challenges and improve the lives of marginalized communities.

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