The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced on Tuesday 27th April that architect Yasmeen Lari has been awarded the 2023 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. Lari has been recognized for her substantial contributions to the field of architecture, as well as her humanitarian work. In its press release, RIBA hailed Lari’s extraordinary accomplishments, citing her immeasurable influence on the direction of the field. King Charles III has approved the medal, which is the first of its kind, and it will be presented to Lari at a formal ceremony in June.
Yasmeen Lari was born in Dera Ghazi Khan, Pakistan in 1941. When she was 15 years old, she relocated to London with her family. Lari attended finishing school and studied art before enrolling in the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University (formerly known as Oxford Polytechnic) where she obtained her degree in 1964. At the young age of 23, Lari returned to Pakistan with her husband, Suhail Zaheer Lari, and founded her own architecture firm, Lari Associates in Karachi, making her the first female architect in the country.
Throughout the years, Lari Associates completed various projects for institutional clients, such as the Taj Mahal Hotel in Karachi and the Pakistan State Oil House headquarters. Lari was also a pioneer in sustainable development, including her design for the Angoori Bag housing in Lahore and the Chulah Cook-stove, a self-build stove that provides a greener alternative to traditional Pakistani stoves.
Lari retired from professional practice in 2000 but continued to contribute to the field through her work with her husband in co-founding the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan. The Foundation received a United Nations Recognition Award in 2002 and has since been dedicated to promoting sustainable construction. Their efforts have resulted in the creation of 50,000 shelters in areas vulnerable to natural disasters and conflict zones. Lari’s approach to this work has been guided by her belief in “low cost, zero carbon, zero waste” principles.
Over the course of her career, Lari has received numerous accolades, including the Jane Drew Prize in 2020, the World Habitat Award in 2018, and the Islamic Development Bank Prize for Women’s Empowerment in 2013. In 2023, she achieved another milestone as the first female recipient of the Laurea Magistrale ad honorem in Architecture from the Politecnico di Milano in 158 years.