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Yasmeen Lari

Working at the nexus of tradition, heritage, and humanitarian work

Michaelmas 2021-2022

Tuesday, 16 November 2021


Social and Ecological Architecture for Humanity

We live in an era that is beset with fragmentation and disruptions; our world is ravaged by rising poverty levels, increasing disparities, resource depletion and climate change, together with the impact of Covid-19.

In this new world disorder, how can we continue to design only for the privileged one per cent who have acquired the most wealth?

“We must develop a framework for a changed direction in architecture. We need to do away with the prevalent colonial mindset and the desire to create imposing megastructures, which have traditionally been commissioned by the likes of the Medici family of Florence, the robber barons of the East India Company, the merchant princes of the industrial revolution, and present-day exploitative multinationals that promote wasteful high-carbon methodologies and highly consumptive modes of living.

I want us to reset concepts to deal with the new normal – to fashion an equitable world by democratising architecture, promoting community participation, co-building and co-creation, in order to help stitch the frayed tapestry of the earth; to take the lead in the use of sustainable, locally sourced materials; to incorporate attributes drawn from tradition and heritage; and to pursue
carbon-neutral, circular-economy principles that would provide both social and ecological justice through architectural design.”


Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect, graduated from Oxford Brookes University in 1963, and was elected to Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1969. She has built several landmark contemporary buildings in Pakistan and is considered among pioneers of Brutalist Architecture. After retiring from architectural practice in 2000 she has been engaged in heritage management and humanitarian architecture. She has conserved several heritage assets at Makli WH, Lahore Fort WH and 19th c. buildings in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. She has been published among 60 Women who have contributed the most towards UNESCO’s objectives.

She is best known as a proponent of zero carbon footprint conceptions drawn from vernacular traditions and has founded Barefoot Social Architecture (BASA) that incorporates tenets of social and ecological justice for empowering marginalised sections of society using methodologies that tread lightly on the planet.

She is the recipient of several international awards that include Jane Drew Prize 2020, Fukuoka Prize 2016. Awards for Heritage Foundation include UN Recognition Award for the promotion of culture and peace 2002, Islamic Development Bank Award for women’s empowerment and World Habitat Award 2018 for Pakistan Chulah stove.

She has authored and co-authored several publications. Her work has been exhibited at RIBA in London, Chicago, Oslo, Vienna Biennale and Milan.

In October 2021, she was awarded an honorary degree from Politecnico di Milano being the first woman so honoured in 158 years of the university’s history.

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