The 82-year-old star designer of projects as far ranging as the Angoori Bagh Social Housing and Pakistan State Oil House was commended for her contributions to sustainable design and the built environment of her native country.
Known as the “barefoot architect,” Lari began her career in the mid-1960s as the first female architect to register in Pakistan. She retired from practice in 2000, and from there went on to recommit herself to humanitarian causes at home and elsewhere in the global south.
RIBA’s President Simon Allford said: “It was an honor to chair the committee that selected Yasmeen Lari. An inspirational figure, she moved from a large practice centered on the needs of international clients to focusing solely on humanitarian causes. Lari’s mission during her ‘second’ career has empowered the people of Pakistan through architecture, engaging users in design and production. She has shown us how architecture changes lives for the better.”
“Lari’s work in championing zero-carbon and zero-waste construction is exemplary. She has reacted imaginatively and creatively making affordable projects that address the real and often urgent need for accommodation, and basic services, but with generosity and an eye for the potential of everyday materials and crafts to make architecture at all scales. Her way of working also sets out to address the physical and psychological damage caused by major natural disasters — disaster that sadly inevitably will be ever more prevalent in our densely populated and climate-challenged planet.”
Lari added that she felt “surprised” and “totally delighted” by the honor. As she commented: “I never imagined that as I focus on my country's most marginalized people — venturing down uncharted vagabond pathways — I could still be considered for the highest of honors in the architectural profession.”
Lari joins the late Balkrishna Doshi (2022), David Adjaye (2021), Grafton Architects co-founders Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell (2020), and Nicholas Grimshaw (2019) as recent winners of the prestigious award, which was first given to Charles Robert Cockerell in 1848. A special presentation will be made in June. The full 2023 Gold Medal citation can be found here.
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