ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's first woman architect Yasmeen Lari, who this week bagged the prestigious British Gold Medal, said on Thursday that she was surprised and delighted on receiving the award since only "iconic" architects from across the globe have won it previously.
The award was presented to Lari, 81, by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which is given in recognition of a lifetime’s work. According to RIBA, the monarch personally approves the medal for individuals or groups of people who have had a “significant influence either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.
Lari received the medal for her work related to zero-carbon self-built houses for displaced populations. Homes designed and conceived by Lari are becoming models around the world for climate resistant housing.
“Well, it’s a great honor, there is no doubt about it and it’s something that I had not expected,” Lari told Arab News over the phone on Thursday.
Lari said since it is the first time that a woman architect from Pakistan was awarded the highest of honors in the field of architecture, it came as a “total surprise” to her.
“That’s because most of the architects who have been given this particular medal have been really, very well-known, iconic kind of architects, so it's a kind of total deviation from what’s been done in the past, and of course, I am very grateful,” she added.
Awarded since 1848, the medal has previously been given to renowned architects from across the world, including Sir David Adjaye OBE, Grafton Architects, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, Neave Brown, Dame Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Sir Norman Foster, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Sir George Gilbert Scott.
Graduating from the Oxford School of Architecture (now the Oxford Brookes University), Lari began her career in the 1960s and has since worked on several architectural projects across Pakistan. She also co-founded the Heritage Foundation in 1980 to safeguard the South Asian country’s cultural heritage. She was elected to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1969 and as per Heritage Foundation's website, has worked on the conservation of several historic monuments in the World Heritage Sites of Makli and Lahore Fort, and other heritage sites across Pakistan.
In Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, she designed several buildings which are considered as landmarks, such as the FTC building, the Pakistan State Oil House and ABN Amro Bank head office.
"An inspirational figure, she moved from a large practice centered on the needs of international clients to focusing solely on humanitarian causes," RIBA President Simon Allford said in a statement, adding that Lari's work championing zero carbon and zero waste construction is "exemplary."
"Her way of working also sets out to address the physical and psychological damage caused by major natural disasters – disaster that sadly inevitably will be ever more prevalent in our densely populated and climate challenged planet," he added.