As The Supreme being created the framework of the world, His creations make the frameworks of the shelters we all live in. These great artistic minds have such intellect and finesse as to create the great wonders of this world. One such great mind was blessed upon Pakistan in 1941, in the small town of Dera Ghazi Khan. Her name is Yasmeen Lari.
After graduating from the Oxford School of Architecture she began her long and arduous journey in a field dominated by men. Initially in her career, she faced many difficulties when workers at construction sites would challenge her authority or knowledge because of her gender. Her very early achievements were the formation of General’s Combatant Headquarters and Naval Combatants Headquarters.
She was made president of the Architects of Pakistan and Town Planners in 1980. Her later projects included the Angoori Bagh Housing (1978) in Lahore, the Taj Mahal Hotel (1981), the Finance and Trade Center (1989) in Karachi, and the Pakistan State Oil House (PSO Company headquarters) (1991) in Karachi.
She had keen interest in preserving our cultural heritage. To preserve our historical monuments, cities and sites was her ambition. She founded the Heritage Foundation Pakistan 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 2006, in recognition of her services to the architectural profession and heritage conservation, she was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz, one of the highest civil awards, by Government of Pakistan.
Yasmeen Lari ended her career in Architecture in the starting of the 21st century. Also her heart went out to all the victims of the natural disasters that have struck our nation and left thousands of people without any food and shelter. Since 2010 Yasmeen Lari, has built over 36,000 houses for those affected by Pakistan’s floods and earthquakes. Lari implements traditional building techniques and local materials in rebuilding the Sindha Valley region of Pakistan. In 2013 she helped villagers in Awaran District who were hit by the 2013 Balochistan earthquake.
Her greatest source of inspiration throughout her exceptionally successful career has been none other than her honorable father. Her charitable instincts come from him. She focused her career in developing low income housing and easy comfortable living for all. Huge skyscrapers and record breaking buildings do not reach out to the common man who only wants a roof over his head.
She has also worked on creating an environment friendly society by educating women to create gardens of flowers and vegetables on their roof tops. She also introduced smokeless stoves for village women as to not pose any threat to the environment.
Yasmeen Lari provides many internship opportunities for young architects and opens endless horizons for them to explore and endeavor. Such great minds need not go unnoticed by our future generations and we must take lesson from their wondrous lives. She is one of the jewels of Pakistan and our country is in forever debt to her.
By Ayesha Kaleem