Honorary Master’s Degree upon Yasmeen Lari

Pakistan's first woman architect, she has dedicated her life to the rights of the most deprived and to environmental sustainability

The Politecnico di Milano awarded an honorary master's degree in architecture to Yasmeen Lari, the first female architect in Pakistan, who, challenging patriarchal prejudices and overcoming many difficulties, dedicated her life to the rights of the most deprived, housing emergencies and environmental sustainability.

After the greetings of the Dean of the School of Architecture Urban Planning Construction Engineering Ilaria Valente and the laudatio of Professor Imma Forino, of the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Yasmeen Lari gave a lectio entitled "Humanistic architecture for social and ecological justice".

By the constant interconnecting of architecture and social justice in her work, and a careful eye on the eco-sustainability of her designs, Lari has always shown a deep empathy for people and places.

Imma Forino observed in her laudatio.

With her work, Yasmeen Lari has given new meaning to the social commitment that a woman, a mother, an architect, a researcher can make with her own life, without ignoring dialogue with others and awareness of surrounding conditions, but learning at every chance and thus embarking on a constant renewal of herself.

Yasmeen Lari graduated in architecture in 1964 and her first professional engagement was with German firm Zhan & Co., in Hameln.

After her return to Pakistan, she became the country’s first woman architect, challenging age-old prejudices to overcome countless challenges. In Karachi, in 1964, she opened the Karachi Artists’ Gallery, where she curated personal and collective exhibitions. In 1965, she was appointed chief architect for the Karachi firm, MacDonald, Layton & Costain Ltd. That same year she opened her own Lari Associates, Architects and Urban Designers in the city, that was awarded countless contracts for public buildings. In 1966 she was appointed lecturer at the Karachi School of Architecture.

In 2000, after her firm closed, she began to devote her time to the disadvantaged areas of her country, designing dwellings and centres of aggregation in areas struck by natural disasters. Engaging local workers and renovating local building systems, Lari coordinated informal, carbon-neutral, earthquake-resistant settlement projects. Last but not least, she became involved in restoring and preserving many rural villages, saving their Pakistani historical and cultural heritage.

In 1980, with her husband, the historian Suhail Zaheer Lari, she founded the non-profit Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, whose mission is to document and conserve the traditional and historic built environment of Pakistan.

Lari is designated as one the sixty women worldwide who have contributed most to UNESCO goals.

An honorary degree awarded to Yasmeen Lari is a signal to young people that there is an alternative approach to designing and executing those projects in a radically changing world. An approach that finds in the past the roots for planning the future, instilling hope of redemption and dignity in the weakest tiers of the populations.

the motivations read by Dean Ilaria Valente state.

Her work has also been successful in establishing a new concept of architectural beauty, pragmatism and solidity, thanks to her patient research into appropriate technologies and forms that wisely view yesterday’s local traditions in the context of tomorrow.