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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 earthquake, they have become one of the world’s most successful providers of sustainable, resilient disaster relief structures; building more than 36,000 houses for victims of floods and earthquakes in Pakistan since 2010. They are also very involved in historic conservation projects in villages all around Pakistan.

The Foundation was established in 1980 by husband and wife team Yasmeen and Suhail Zaheer Lari. Yasmeen Lari has the distinction of being Pakistan’s first female architect.  Prior to her work with the Foundation, Yasmeen built giant concrete and steel buildings for clients such as the Pakistani State Oil company. She also played a leading role in the formation of the architecture profession within Pakistan.  As President of the Institute of Architects Pakistan (IAP) and first chair of the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners, Lari 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 “KaravanGhar” made from debris of collapsed houses and local materials. These were built by community members, university volunteers and local artisans under the direction of the Heritage Foundation.

In August 2010, the Foundation responded to disaster again when severe historical floods displaced 20 million people in Pakistan. Aided by past experimentation in the use of local materials and techniques, the Heritage Foundation developed a new low-cost option for speedy construction. The Green KaravanGhar, built on the lessons of the original KaravanGhar, was made without the use of wood, cement or steel.  Units are principally constructed from bamboo and can be assembled in eight days.  Despite their utility as an emergency shelter, the GreenKaravan Ghar are designed as permanent units.

Beyond their relief work, the Foundation has worked widely in all forms of sustainable development, including developing training programs for women to make products based on traditional craft skills, sustainable farming, and developing a remarkable cook stove which can be built by unskilled labor for only $7.

For more on Yasmeen’s extensive and groundbreaking 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 Episode 16 | Design, Development and Disaster Mitigation in Pakistan here.