Yasmeen Lari


For the low income groups, you have to understand their needs. If it is housing, I always talk to women because they are the ones who spend most of their time in these houses, we need to see where the children will play, if they need to grow something [in the garden] to supplement food for the kids. Also the outer spaces become very important like the sahan, the roof terrace where they can have the open sky. So you just think about it (the design) and sometimes it’s torture for several days and then you suddenly wake up and things fall into place… When you are in the design process, it is with you all the time. Whether you are sleeping or you are awake, doing something else, it’s with you in your mind. I often tell my colleagues, let us not treat disaster-affected households as destitute, needing handouts. Rather, let us give them due respect and treat them as we would a corporate-sector client. If we can encourage that elusive element of pride among traumatized families, half the battle would be won, for they would soon be on the road to self-reliance .

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Architect, Traditional Futurist, Conservationist & Social Activist

Yasmeen Lari is the first woman architect of Pakistan. After initial schooling at Queen Mary’s, Adbistan-e-Soofia and Kinnaird College, Lahore, Pakistan, she graduated from Oxford School of Architecture (now Oxford Brookes University) and was elected Member of Royal Institute of British Architects. As President of Institute of Architects Pakistan and first Chairperson of Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners, Lari was instrumental in bringing about recognition for the professions of architecture and town planning through PCATP Ordinance 1983. In 1980, Yasmeen along with her husband, Suhail Zaheer Lari, established Heritage Foundation, as a family trust. Recipient of UN Recognition Award 2002 for promotion of culture and peace, Yasmeen’s profile has been included among 60 Women from around the world who have contributed most towards the objectives of UNESCO. She was elected a Fellow of Ashoka, Innovators for the Public, USA, in 2004. As the UNESCO’s National Advisor (2003-2005) she led the team that saved the endangered Shish Mahal ceiling in the Shah Burj (the Royal Tower) of the Lahore Fort World Heritage site. Lari is passionate in preserving historical buildings, monuments, and cities in Pakistan.

Her effort was rewarded when the Pakistani government was persuaded to set up a law in 1994 to protect buildings and landmarks with cultural heritage. As a result, over 600 buildings were legally protected by 1997. As the Chairperson of the Karavan Initiatives, she has built over 36,000 houses for those affected by Pakistan’s floods and earthquakes since 2005. Lari implements traditional building techniques and local materials in rebuilding the Sindha Valley region of Pakistan. Beside the design, the cost is also important, and that is why she built it with the cheapest local bricks in Karachi while still maintaining the quality of the building. In 2013, she helped villagers in Awaran District who were hit by Balochistan earthquake. In 2006, in recognition of her services to the architectural profession and heritage conservation, she was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz, one of the highest civil awards, by Government of Pakistan. She retired from architectural practice in 2000 to devote full time to writing and heritage-related work. She is the author and co-author of several books including most recently on the historic Governor House, Lahore.