Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

Revitalising Local Craft and Materials
An initiative for protecting the climate, and a material and skills heritage, from globalised interventions. Using social enterprise, construction, repair, and education projects, the foundation combines spatial and social empowerment in a hands-on approach to craft conservation and climate justice.


As climate breakdown worsens, environmental disasters threaten to exacerbate gender and socioeconomic inequity. These inequities are playing out everywhere, but some of the world’s poorest places are also those most exposed to climate risks. Pakistan sits on tectonic fault lines and has suffered earthquakes which have killed and displaced many, harming poorest people the most. More recently, the country’s prime minister responded to devastating floods by claiming that Pakistan is “on the frontline” of climate change.1Nina Lakhani,We couldn’t fail them”: how Pakistan’s floods spurred fight at Cop for loss and damage fund <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/20/loss-and-damage-pakistan-flooding-climate-justice-cop27> [accessed 10 July 2022].

Post-disaster reconstruction projects, however, often tend to lack both the social and material understanding to rebuild communities. Highly-engineered concrete structures are promoted as safe by international aid agencies, in a construction pattern that fosters dependency, ignoring situated knowledges of local materials and construction techniques. As environmental disasters become more frequent, these physically and socially damaging construction patterns continue.


Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari founded the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan in 2005. Architecture is often the domain of the rich and tends to emulate the modern project’s carbon-intensive and elitist tendencies. Lari knows this first-hand, having led a career designing financial centres, hotels, and company headquarters. With architecture considered inaccessible on the one hand, and paternalistic international aid’s concrete provisions failing at cultural and climate sensitivity on the other, Lari saw an opportunity to meet a holistic challenge of taking social and environmentalist action.

The Foundation employs people to construct community-serving buildings from low carbon materials including local lime, unfired clay, mud, and bamboo. The Foundation also supports projects that provide housing, fund local enterprises, and educate women. Through such grassroots initiatives, the Foundation helps to shift cultural mindsets and boosts confidence in using local, traditional materials such as mud and clay, which have sometimes been associated with poverty due to international perceptions. Likewise, Lari hopes to change popular conceptions of women’s work, highlighting the importance of domestic spaces and labour to the entire community. The Foundation’s holistic approach to buildings’ functions, designs, materials, and methods of construction takes an intersectional stance against international paternalism and its emphasis on carbon-intensive construction with imported materials and methods.