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Yasmeen Lari Awarded RIBA’s Prestigious 2023 Royal Gold Medal

Yasmeen Lari Awarded RIBA's Prestigious 2023 Royal Gold Medal

Architecture is one of the oldest and most fundamental forms of human expression. It not only shapes our physical environment but also influences the way we perceive and experience the world around us. Each year, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) recognizes an architect who has made significant contributions to the field with the prestigious Royal Gold Medal. In 2023, the honor has been awarded to Yasmeen Lari, making her the first female architect from Pakistan to receive this accolade.

Yasmeen Lari is a pioneering figure in architecture. She is known for her socially responsible and sustainable designs. Her contributions towards “zero carbon and zero waste” construction are recognized through the Royal Gold Medal.

This blog post will explore the life and work of Yasmeen Lari and the significance of the Royal Gold Medal in the architectural community. We will delve into Yasmeen Lari’s architectural philosophy and design approach, her notable projects, and the impact of her work on the architectural community. Additionally, we will examine the history and importance of the Royal Gold Medal and its previous recipients. This is an exciting moment for the architectural community and a chance to celebrate the achievements of an outstanding architect who has dedicated her life to creating sustainable, socially responsible designs.

Who is Yasmeen Lari?

Yasmeen Lari was born in Pakistan in 1941. She is one of the first women in the country to receive a degree in architecture from Oxford Brookes University in 1964. After graduation, she returned to Pakistan and started her architectural firm. In 1969, she became a RIBA member.

Over the years, Yasmeen Lari’s career has been marked by a series of remarkable achievements. On top of becoming the first female architect to establish her firm in Pakistan, she and her husband established a humanitarian group called the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan in 1980.

Yasmeen Lari’s work reflects a modernist approach, and she is a pioneer of Barefoot Social Architecture (BASA) philosophy which emphasizes social responsibility and environmental sustainability. She is committed to creating designs using locally sourced materials and traditional building techniques. Her designs range from disaster-resilient homes to community centers and schools. She has also taken up restoration projects like the Shahi Hammam in Lahore and Mohatta Palace in Karachi.

Yasmeen Lari’s works throughout the years-

  • Angoori Bagh Housing, Lahore (1978)
  • Taj Mahal Hotel, Karachi (1981)
  • Finance and Trade Center, Karachi (1989)
  • Pakistan State Oil House, Karachi (1991)
  • Women’s Centre, Darya Khan (2011)

Even though she retired in 2000, she continues to contribute to the field and is also a UNESCO advisor. Through the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, she has built thousands of shelters for earthquake and flood victims in the country. She has also been a mentor to many young architects and has helped to establish architecture programs in universities throughout Pakistan.

Yasmeen Lari’s contributions to architecture have been widely recognized, and her trophy cabinet is a testament to her accomplishments.

  • She was awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2006, which is one of the highest civil awards in Pakistan.
  • Pakistani 1st Wonder Woman of the Year award in 2011
  • Fukuoka Prize for Arts and Culture in 2016
  • Jane Drew Prize in 2020, which recognizes women architects who have made significant contributions to the field.

Now, the Royal Gold Medal is another addition!

“I was so surprised to hear this news and of course totally delighted! 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,” Yasmeen Lari said after learning about winning the Royal Gold Medal.

“RIBA and the Award Committee have heralded a new direction for the profession, encouraging all architects to focus not only on the privileged but also humanity at large that suffers from disparities, conflicts, and climate change. There are innumerable opportunities to implement principles of circular economy, de-growth, transition design, eco urbanism, and what we call Barefoot Social Architecture (BASA) to achieve climate resilience, sustainability and eco-justice in the world,” she added.

The Royal Gold Medal is a highly prestigious award that is approved personally by the Monarch. Its previous winners include Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi (2022), Sir David Adjaye (2021), Dame Zaha Hadid (2016), David Chipperfield (2011), and Frank Lloyd Wright (1941). The significance of the Royal Gold Medal lies not only in its history and tradition but also in the impact it has on the architectural community. The award is a symbol of recognition and respect, and winning it is considered a major achievement in an architect’s career. It not only acknowledges an architect’s accomplishments but also serves as an inspiration for others in the field.

Importance of sustainable buildings today

The effects of climate change are more prevalent than ever, and as the construction industry is one of the biggest emitters of CO2, it’s high time to prioritize sustainable building and construction methods. We have seen a surge in the adoption of technological tools to optimize construction workflows, reduce waste, and make energy-efficient designs. The most recent example we can look at is the Hemisphere, an upcoming sustainable building in Liverpool.

In the years to come, hurricanes and floods will be even more intense, and we need to act now to reduce our carbon footprint and transition towards sustainable building practices. Yasmeen Lari’s emphasis on sustainability and disaster-resilient design serves as an example of how architects can contribute towards building a more sustainable future. There is an urgent need to prioritize social responsibility and sustainability as we face unprecedented environmental challenges.

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