Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari has been awarded one of the world’s highest honours for architecture, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal.
Yasmeen’s work as an architect, humanitarian, zero carbon proponent, and champion of the most marginalised communities, has inspired a generation of architects to become change-makers, including many members of the CAA. Her dedication as an activist and educator seeking to make communities and the planet healthier and more resilient through architecture, resonates strongly with our own aims and we are grateful that she has supported the CAA in its Call for Action on Sustainable Urbanisation across the Commonwealth.
In addition, Yasmeen is Pakistan’s first woman architect and a long-time champion of women’s rights. In particular the training she has provided in low-tech, participatory, and disaster-resilient methods has enabled disaster affected communities, and especially women, to become more self-reliant.
Published: 27 April 2023
Each year The Royal Gold Medal is awarded to someone who has had a significant influence on the advancement of architecture. Yasmeen joins Gold Medallists such as Balkrishna Doshi, Frank Gehry, Sir Norman Foster and Frank Lloyd Wright. and other extraordinary architects whose work has moved architecture forward.
Yasmeen retired from commercial practice in 2000 to focus on humanitarian and heritage causes, and it is for her inspirational work since then that she has been awarded the Royal Gold Medal. In her ‘retirement’ she has empowered communities by recognising the potential of locally available materials and crafts, and engaging people inthe design and production of their homes. Through this methodology she has delivered vast numbers of zero carbon, climate resilient, easy to construct buildings that can help mitigate the most damaging impacts of natural disasters and rapid urbanisation, and advance eco justice. She is known as ‘Architect for the Poorest of the Poor’ and founded Barefoot Social Architecture (BASA) to “achieve climate resilience, sustainability and eco justice in the world.”
Her activism extends to the preservation of culturally important historic buildings. The Heritage Foundation of Pakistan was founded by Yasmeen and she is responsible for conserving a number of important historic buildings in Pakistan including World Heritage Sites. In recognition of her work, she was included in the 60 women who have contributed the most towards UNESCO’s objectives.
Yasmeen graduated from the UK’s Oxford Brookes University in 1963 and was elected to RIBA in 1969. An activist all her working life she became President of Institute of Architects Pakistan (1978); first Chair of Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP) (1983); and Founding Chair of INTBAU Pakistan (2018). Now aged 80 she has become Pakistan’s first Gold Medal winner and is continuing her humanitarian work with extraordinary dedication and vigour. We are proud that she is Commonwealth architect. Her extraordinary achievements, energy and teaching are an inspiration to all of us at the CAA.
Published: 27 April 2023