Yasmeen Lari is Pakistan’s first female architect and among the best-known architects of the country. She is also an architectural historian, heritage conservationist, philanthropist and humanitarian architect. She is the co-founder and CEO of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, founder chair of Pakistan Council of Architects ad Town Planners and Founder Chair of INTBAU Pakistan. She graduated from Oxford Brookes University and was elected to Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1969. During her architectural practice of 36 years, she has built several landmark buildings in Pakistan e.g., Finance and Trade Center, Pakistan State Oil Head Office and ABN Amro Bank, Karachi. Her works are being exhibited among a handful of architects from South Asia at an exhibition at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), New York, titled “Architecture of Decolonization in South Asia 1947-1987.” She retired from architectural practice in 2000.
She is a UNESCO consultant and has been published among 60 Women who have contributed the most towards UNESCO’s objectives. She has conserved several historic monuments in World Heritage Sites of Makli and Lahore Fort as well as important heritage sites in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Since Earthquake 2005, she has devised various programs based on women-centred zero carbon footprint structures and sustainable building techniques, and as technical partner with IOM she helped build 43,000 green shelters (using bamboo, lime and mud), placing Pakistan in the lead as World’s largest zero carbon shelter program, herself being acknowledged as the largest provider of houses for the poor. The zero carbon Pakistan Chulah designed by her has won World Habitat Award 2018. She has devised Barefoot Social Architecture (BASA) to foster self-reliance through disaster resilient zero carbon, sustainable, low-tech architecture that enables marginalized sections, particularly women attain their rights, dignity and pride. In the pursuit of providing social and ecological justice, humanitarian assistance to more than 100,000 persons per year has been provided, targeting 12 SDGs.
In recognition of her services towards architectural profession, heritage safeguarding and humanitarian assistance, President of Pakistan has awarded her Sitara-i-Imtiaz (The Star of Distinction), 2006 and Hilal-i-Imtiaz (The Crescent of Distinction), 2014. She has received the highly acclaimed Fukuoka Prize (2016) from Japan and the coveted international Jane Drew Prize (2020). Other awards include UN Recognition Award 2002 for the promotion of culture and peace, the Islamic Development Bank Prize 2013 for Women’s Development. Also, World Habitat Award 2018 for earthen Pakistan Chulah stove. She has received the honorary degree Laurea Magistrale ad honorem in Architecture from Politecnico di Milano, Italy. Along with a monograph on her work the event recognized her contribution towards disaster resilient zero carbon sustainable and affordable housing for the majority.
She has served on several national and international committees and juries. She has authored and co-authored several publications and her works have been exhibited in many countries around the world. She has lectured widely at home and abroad in innumerable universities and conferences in Asia, Europe and the US, including presentations at UNESCO and UNISDR conferences, she has been appointed Marshall Professor for Sustainable Design at University of Cambridge, 2022-23.