Yasmeen Lari: Barefoot Social Architecture Benefitting People and the Planet

The Pakistani architect and humanitarian argues for “barefoot social architecture,” a design philosophy emphasizing co-creation and carbon-neutral materials.

December 13, 2021

Recorded on December 7, 2021.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Yasmeen Lari is the cofounder and CEO of the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, an organization working to conserve the nation’s historic art and architecture while providing large-scale humanitarian aid to local communities. Positing a sustainable, grassroots model for the development of Pakistan’s built environment, she advocates for “barefoot social architecture,” a women-centered, carbon-neutral approach to housing that emphasizes co-creation and the use of sustainable materials like bamboo, lime, and mud. Under Lari’s leadership, the Heritage Foundation has helped build over 40,000 carbon-neutral structures across Pakistan.

In this video, Lari discusses projects including:

  • The Pakistan Chulah, a user-built zero-carbon stove that replaces dangerous open flames in homes across Pakistan.
  • Bamboo Women’s Centre, a two-story bamboo structure in which women can socialize and study, built on stilts for flood protection.
  • Zero Carbon Cultural Centre, a large bamboo structure built as part of Lari’s “zero-carbon campus,” a collection of community buildings adjacent to the historic Makli Necropolis near Thatta, Pakistan.

The program was moderated by urbanist, filmmaker, and writer Cassim Shepard. Shepard teaches in the urban design program at Columbia GSAPP and consults for mission-driven organizations on editorial and media strategy, public engagement, and urban planning projects. He was the founding editor of Urban Omnibus.


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