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YASMEEN LARI. Architecture for the Future

Category: Exhibition 28. March 2023

The world's first exhibition of the complete work of Yasmeen Lari: The Architekturzentrum Wien is hosting a personal exhibition of Pakistan's first female architect based on previously unpublished photos, documents and drawings from her archive, which can be seen at the Architekturzentrum Wien in Vienna's Museumsquartier until August 16 2023.

Curated by Angelika Fitz, Elke Krasny and Marvi Mazhar, the exhibition, divided into nine chapters, traces Yasmeen Lari's entire career, from her modernist beginnings in the 1960s, through her social housing projects in the 1970s, to her time as a star architect in the 1980s and '90s, and her orientation toward low-CO2 sustainable architecture from the turn of the millennium.

Yasmeen Lari, born in 1940 as daughter of civil engineer and urban planner in Pakistan, studied architecture at Oxford and returned to Pakistan after graduation, founding the architectural firm Lari Associates in Karachi in 1964 and becoming Pakistan's first woman architect.

As such, she had to face hierarchical resistance and career obstacles, but the Angoori Bagh housing estate project in Lahore (1973) at the beginning of her career brught her sudden fame. The 787 dwelling units, heat-resistant nested in traditional construction with low cost and participation of local craftsmen - instead of expensive facades and participation of international construction companies - was a pioneering project for socially and culturally sustainable housing estates as well as resource-saving low-cost concepts in urban areas. The Angoori Bagh master plan was also nominated for the Aga Khan Award.

This was followed by commissions from the public sector as well as international corporations and private developers. During this time, she designed landmarks such as the Finance and Trade Center in Karachi, the Pakistan State Oil House, and the headquarters of the Dutch ABN Amro Bank.

In 2000 - after her retirement - she decided to turn away from capital-driven client architecture and devote more time to the poor and uprooted. Natural disasters ranging from earthquakes to floods motivated her to develop her zero-carbon self-build movement, using carbon-neutral materials such as bamboo, clay and lime for self-build.

Over the past two decades, she conceived and implemented her system of zero-carbon architecture, involving local labor in self-construction, improved ancestral building traditions, and attention to women's needs.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of flood- and earthquake-resistant houses, sanitation infrastructures, and even the smoke-free stove were built. The Pakistan Chulah (Pakistani stove) requires only half as much fuel, is built by the users themselves under Youtube instructions and, in addition to material and time savings, brings further advantages such as higher fire safety, improved posture of the women while cooking and more hygiene through distance from the ground.

Together with her husband Suhail Zaheer Lari, Yasmeen Lari founded the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan and researched her country's built heritage, everyday buildings as well as the two World Heritage Sites in Makli and Lahore. She also worked as a consultant for Unesco for a long time.

Yasmeen Lari has redefined architecture as climate activism and initiated the world's largest zero-carbon self-build movement in Pakistan, which is one of the countries most affected by climate change.

Her work has recently been recognized with awards, including internationally: in 2016, Lari received the Fukuoka Prize for Art and Culture; in 2020, the Jane Drew Prize; and in 2021, an honorary doctorate from Politecnico di Milano. She currently holds a visiting professorship at the University of Cambridge. (written by Cem Angeli)

The exhibition will be accompanied by the book "Yasmeen Lari. Architecture for the Future" by MIT Press. With contributions by Angelika Fitz, Elke Krasny, Marvi Mazhar, Chris Moffat, Helen Thomas, Anila Naeem, Abira Ashfaq, Raquel Rolnik, Anne Karpf, Runa Khan, Cassandra Cozza, Rafia Zakaria.

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