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Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

The Heritage Foundation of Pakistan is a non-profit working at the intersection of architecture and social justice. Since the 2005 Swat Valley earthquake, they have become one of the world’s most successful providers of sustainable, resilient disaster relief structures, and are also very involved in historic conservation projects in villages all around Pakistan.

The Foundation was established in 1980 by husband and wife team Suhail Zaheer and Yasmeen Lari. Yasmeen Lari has the distinction of being Pakistan’s first female architect.  Prior to her work with the Foundation, she built giant concrete and steel buildings for clients such as the Pakistani State Oil company. As President of the Institute of Architects Pakistan (IAP) and first chair of the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners, this winner of the Jane Drew Prize 2020 was instrumental in bringing about recognition for the professions of architecture and town planning.

The Foundation’s post-disaster reconstruction work began in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake in Swat province. It developed an emergency shelter called “Karavan Ghar” made from debris of collapsed houses and local materials, and were built by community members, university volunteers and local artisans under the direction of the Foundation.

Beyond their relief work, the Foundation has worked widely in all forms of sustainable development, including developing a remarkable smokeless “chulha”, an earthen stove, which can be built by unskilled labor for only $7. With her dictum of ‘Low Cost/Zero Carbon/Zero Waste’ and using locally sourced sustainable materials such as earth, lime and bamboo, Yasmeen Lari devised Barefoot Social Architecture (BASA). BASA incorporates tenets of social and cultural justice, helping communities achieve self-reliance through participatory processes – co-building and co-creation of households by themselves. Through BASA, Heritage Foundation has provided humanitarian assistance to 840,000 persons in over 8 years.

The Foundation has also worked towards the conservation of much of Karachi’s cultural heritage, as well as the historical district of Khairpur and the ancient site of Kot Diji, by advocating for safeguarding several hundred structures in poor conditions.

Yasmeen has gone on to win several accolades, including the 2023 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, the 2020 Jane Drew Prize and Pakistan’s third-highest Civilian Honor, the Sitara-e-Imitiaz

For more on Yasmeen’s extensive and ground-breaking career, please join us on Social Design Insights. We had a chance to talk with Yasmeen in Episode 16, where she detailed her journey and her strategies for building a more resilient Pakistan. Listen to the episode below.

16 | Design, Development and Disaster Mitigation in Pakistan


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "Bangla Dhun" by Ravi Shankar from the album "The Concert For Bangladesh."