Yasmeen Lari’s rallying call to architects

Yasmeen Lari

Source:  Laura Pannack

The latest subject in our series of profiles featuring practitioners who aren’t afraid to shake things up has a bold message for architects: challenge the brief; think about how and why you build

When I met Yasmeen Lari at the W Awards back in March 2020, where she was being presented with the Jane Drew Prize, she felt like a force of nature. Brave, positive, hugely warm.

It was just before the UK went into lockdown, the world was teetering, and everyone crackled with smiles and anxious energy. Hard to believe it’s three years on – and the profession is privileged to have this hands-on gamechanger back in the UK for a spell.

AJ managing editor Will Hurst went to meet Lari in Cambridge, where she is Sir Arthur Marshall Visiting Professor in Sustainable Design at the school of architecture. She’s a fitting subject for our profile series featuring practitioners who aren’t afraid to shake things up.


Hers is a rallying call to action for architects: to challenge the brief, to think about how and why they build, because they hold a ‘great responsibility’ when it comes to shaping the built environment. Lari has an impressive history of advocating for low-tech, low-cost, low-carbon construction techniques which prioritise community self-sufficiency and local knowledge – and from which we can all learn.

It’s a call that can be heard throughout the latest issue of the AJ. The means of production of our food is the very stuff of survival, and yet it has been hidden, globalised and made separate from too many of us for too long.

The agenda-setting buildings we feature this month – from an immersive brewery in Copenhagen to a community restaurant in Mull, and from a soil research centre in France to a revisit of Charlie Bigham’s Somerset base – are about refocusing values, opening up and supporting local producers and communities.

These projects are testament to what good architecture can do – and likewise what a fruitful, collaborative relationship between architect and client can achieve. As Lari says: ‘It’s the responsibility of all of us to consider how our design will benefit the general public.’ And that can be the most productive relationship of all.

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