PAKISTAN – Al Jazeera’s documentary series Rebel Architecture continues tonight with an episode featuring Pakistan’s Yasmeen Lari. As the country’s first female architect, she enjoyed great success, realising large buildings for corporate clients, but gave up her practice in 2000 to dedicate her energy to ‘uncharted waters of humanitarian assistance’.
‘Industrially less developed countries such as Pakistan suffer from many drawbacks,’ says Lari, stressing that architects are trained to serve the privileged, multinationals and corporate community, leaving the dispossessed majority to struggle. ‘Due to the collapse of public institutions, communities have to fend for themselves, succumbing to ever-greater vulnerability. There is a need for technically sound, well-designed approaches to enable them to cope with adversity.’
As the chair and chief executive of the country’s Heritage Foundation, she is involved in preserving the nation’s built heritage and applying traditional techniques in post-disaster area reconstruction. ‘Due to a lack of resources, rural communities are forced to rely on local materials and techniques. Thus, the use of mud brick as masonry, thatch for roofing, hand woven matting for walling, bamboo and local wood for roofs, and mud, straw and cow-dung for render, are commonly utilised,’ she explains, adding that the combination of using existent skills and almost zero carbon footprint materials provides a ‘suitable methodology for mitigating negative climate change impact.’
Lari’s efforts have contributed to the building over 30,000 dwellings by rural men and women since 2012, where she combines vernacular building forms and low-tech, low-impact techniques developed to make these structures disaster-proof. She notes that after a score of disastrous years, ‘more than 800,000 families are without shelter in Pakistan’s Sindh province alone. No donor agencies or governments are able to provide sustenance to such a large number. The salvation lies in fostering self-reliance by developing technical competence of communities.’
Rebel Architecture: A Traditional Future airs today at 22:30 GMT on Al Jazeera English and can be watched online via the .
Photos courtesy of Al Jazeera