Part 22 of a month-long celebration of Women’s History Month
Yasmeen Lari (b. 1941) is a groundbreaking architect making a great impact through a second act focused on social justice. Born near Lahore, Lari studied architecture in England, graduating from Oxford Brookes University. Returning to Pakistan in 1964, she became the first woman to found an architectural practice there. She worked on housing and commercial projects like this giant, modernist hotel in Karachi and other big developments in Pakistan’s biggest city as she built a successful business.
After her retirement from conventional practice in 2000, Lari turned her talents to serving a significantly different sector. Founding an NGO (the Heritage Foundation Pakistan), she went to work in disaster relief and cultural conservation throughout her home country. In this role she has built over 36,000 houses for residents left homeless from floods and earthquakes. Her projects make use of traditional techniques and indigenous materials to be both economically feasible and psychologically comforting. This work has been the basis of her books on squatter settlements, Muslim heritage, traditional architecture, and also guides to architecture in major cities.
Lar’s work has been recognized by the United Nations, the Sitara-e-Imtiaz from the Government of Pakistan, the Fukuoka Prize for Arts and Culture, and a television program (“Rebel Architecture”) produced by Al Jazeera and focusing on architecture as activism.