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Helen Thomas on Traditional Architecture of Thatta
4 January, 2021
Yasmeen Lari wrote this book about the vernacular architecture of Thatta, an ancient city in the province of Sindh, about two hours drive from her home town of Karachi. On the outskirts of the city is an archeological site very important to Lari, where she has carried out various conservation works and located her Zero Carbon Cultural Centre. Lari’s research into the vernacular architecture of her country, mostly photographed by her husband, Suhail Lari, has been important in her understanding of the traditional technologies and typologies that form the basis of her current ‘barefoot architecture’.
In 1980, Hungarian-Canadian architect Eva Vecsei visited Karachi for the third time to work with Lari within an international team of architects and planners on the Karachi Trade and Commerce Centre. As in her previous visits, she stayed at the Lari house as their guest. As well as giving her the opportunity to deepen her friendship with Lari – ‘as soon as I met her she was like my younger sister’ – she told me, she was also able to peruse their extensive library of books about Pakistani architecture and culture. ‘What was unusual about Yasmeen’s book’, Vecsei said, ‘was that all the other books in the library were about the monumental architecture of Thatta, and not the vernacular buildings’.
‘Yasmeen wanted me to see colonial and vernacular architecture in a village landscape’, said Vecsei, and so she travelled there for a short afternoon visit by car with Suhail, and the photographs he took that afternoon feature in the book. The image here shows Eva Vecsei standing in front of an example of the wind-catcher houses.