Yasmeen Lari received the RIBA 2023 Royal Gold Medal

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced that Professor Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect, will receive the 2023 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. The award recognizes her contribution to the humanitarian field: after completing her official practice, the architect has been actively involved in social and environmental projects. The medal will be officially awarded to her in June 2023.

Yasmeen Lari is one of the most influential architects in Pakistan and around the world, she is the author of many completed projects, as well as a humanitarian activist. Her work solves the problems of deforestation, pollution of nature, and health hazards. It promotes the idea of ​​zero-carbon, zero-waste building. Since retiring in 2000, Yasmeen Lari has focused entirely on creating affordable and sustainable solutions to help people living below the poverty line and those affected by natural disasters.

Born in 1941 in Pakistan (then British India), Yasmeen Lari moved to London with her family at the age of 15, where she studied art, then entered the Oxford Brookes University School of Architecture and then Oxford Polytechnic Institute. At the age of 23, she returned to independent Pakistan with her husband Suhail Zaheer Lari to found her architecture firm, Lari Associates. Among the company’s projects are buildings for large government, business, and financial institutions. At the same time, throughout her work, Yasmeen Lari strives to democratize architecture and encourage practitioners to solve pressing social problems.

Back in 1980, the architect co-founded the Pakistan Heritage Foundation with her husband, pioneering the development of self-built sustainable shelters and housing that are easy to deploy in times of crisis. Since then, she has helped build more than 36,000 homes for flood and earthquake victims. In addition, Lari has developed a smokeless version of the Pakistani “chula”, an outdoor stove. This inexpensive clay and plaster oven is more hygienic and safer than traditional hearths used by women in South Asia. Although food is also cooked on an open fire, chula prevents burns and breathing problems and does not start fires. In addition, it is easy to build it yourself. In 2020, Yasmeen Lari was honored with the Jane Drew Award for her extensive humanitarian work over the past two decades.

“I never thought that when I focus on the most marginalized people in my country — those who have ventured into uncharted wandering paths — I could still be considered the recipient of the highest award in the architectural profession,” says Yasmeen Lari.

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