Pakistani architect Prof Yasmeen Lari has been awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal for 2023 in recognition of the humanitarian work “she has undertaken since her retirement”.
The prize, one of the world’s highest accolades for architecture, was announced by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The institute said Prof Lari was a “revolutionary force” who has had an “immeasurable influence on the trajectory of the architecture and humanitarian work in the country”.
Since officially retiring in 2000, she transferred her attention to creating accessible, environmentally friendly building techniques to help people below the poverty line and communities displaced by natural disasters and the effects of climate change.
Prof Yasmeen Lari, who was Pakistan’s first female architect, is the second woman to receive the accolade in her own right following Zaha Hadid. She was recognised for her socially conscious work and for creating homes for the country’s most marginalised communities following her retirement from formal practice.
Buildings designed by architect Yasmeen Lari
She was born on July 3, 1941, in Dera Ghazi Khan, Pakistan. Lari received her education in architecture from the Oxford School of Architecture and the University of London.
After graduating in 1964, Lari returned to Pakistan at the age of 23 with her husband to establish her own architecture firm Lari Associates, going on to work for major government, business, and financial institutions.
Yasmeen Lari has been a pioneer in the field of heritage conservation in Pakistan. In 1980 she co-founded the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan with her husband, Suhail Zaheer Lari, which is a non-profit organization focused on the conservation of Pakistan’s cultural heritage, pioneering the design of self-build sustainable shelters and housing, creating 50,000 dwellings, .
She has worked on the conservation of several important heritage sites in Pakistan, including the Shahi Hamam and Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore, the Makli Necropolis in Thatta, and the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta.
In addition to her work in heritage conservation, Lari has also been involved in social entrepreneurship. She established the first all-women’s architecture firm in Pakistan in 1980 and has since trained and employed thousands of women in various fields, including construction, architecture, and craft making.
Lari has received numerous awards and recognition for her work, including the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, one of Pakistan’s highest civilian awards, and the Fukuoka Grand Prize, which is awarded for outstanding contributions to the preservation and creation of Asian culture.