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Yasmeen Lari is the first woman architect in Pakistan. Motivated by her father, she long set her goal to study architecture. Throughout her career, she experienced challenges from the opposite sex in the industry but was still able to uphold her interests and expand on it. Her influence reaches to the citizens, the businessmen, and the Pakistani government.

Born in the town of Dera Gazi Khan, Yasmeen Lari was exposed to architecture through her father who was an architect, working on projects around Lahore. When she and her family traveled to London, upon the rejection of the architecture school for not being able to draw, Yasmeen Lari studied two years of arts in London before finally getting accepted to Oxford School of Architecture. During the years of her schooling, she married her classmate Suhail Lari and gave birth to a girl. Even though school was still in session, people around her were very supportive and helpful so she was able to take care of her family and her study at the same time. After graduation, in 1964, at the age of 23, Yasmeen Lari returned to Pakistan with her husband and opened Lari Associates in Karachi, Pakistan. Yasmeen Lari became the first female architect among the dozen architects in Pakistan. In the beginning years, she faced many difficulties when workers at construction sites would be challenging her often. However, she overcame all of them by excelling in the tests and proved that she was qualified. She was president of the Institute of Architects in Pakistan from 1980 to 1983.

Yasmeen Lari has a keen interest in exploring different kinds of things. Though her first project was a house for her brother, her later projects included housings, such as the Angoori Bagh Housing (1978), and business buildings, such as the Taj Mahal Hotel (1981), the Finance and Trade Center (1989), and the Pakistan State Oil House (PSO Company headquarter) (1991) in Karachi. Lari is also interested in researching and developing solution for old towns and low-income housing. And because she believes that her designs are driven by the people who use the space, she took the effort to study slums and squatter settlements in Karachi to improve her designs. "For the low income groups, you have to understand their needs. If it is housing, I always talk to women because they are the ones who spend most of their time in these houses, we need to see where the children will play, if they need to grow something [in the garden] to supplement food for the kids. Also the outer spaces become very important like the sahan, the roof terrace where they can have the open sky. So you just think about it (the design) and sometimes its torture for several days and then you suddenly wake up and things fall into place… When you are in the design process, it is with you all the time. Whether you are sleeping or you are awake, doing something else, it's with you in your mind" (Women). Beside the design, the cost is also important, and that is why for ABH (1978), she built it with the cheapest local bricks in Karachi while still maintaining the quality of the building.

Yasmeen Lari also has her interests in preserving historical buildings, monuments, and cities in Pakistan. She founded the Heritage Foundation to advocate the documentation and preservation of historical sites and buildings. Her effort was rewarded when the Pakistani government was persuaded to set up a law in 1994 to protect buildings and landmarks with cultural heritage. As a result, over 600 buildings were legally protected by 1997. In 2002, the Heritage Foundation received the Recognition Award from the UN System in Pakistan for its efforts and results.

Yasmeen Lari has retired since 2000. However, she remains active with her historical preservation by serving as the advisor of the UNESCO project, the executive director of the Heritage Foundation, and the chairperson of the Karavan Initiatives.

Sources: Resource Library: Lari, Yasmeen

IAWA Annual Fall Meeting Features Pakistan's First Woman Architect

Women of Pakistan - Yasmeen Lari

Yasmeen Lari - Women in Architecture 2000 Plus: An event by The Hecar Foundation

Picture from Dawn

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Composed on 5/14/04