Renowned for her transformative impact on her craft, Professor Lesley Lokko has made history by becoming the first woman of African descent to receive the prestigious Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
The 60-year-old Ghanaian-Scottish architect, educator, and author is honored for her remarkable contributions to justice causes and her commitment to "democratize architecture."
Lokko's dedication to fostering diversity within the field of architecture spans over two decades. In 2021, she established the African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana, aiming to delve into the intricate relationships between architecture, identity, and race. This accolade marks a significant milestone, as Lokko is the first woman of African descent to be awarded the Gold Medal since its inception in 1848. Additionally, she follows in the footsteps of last year's recipient, Yasmeen Lari, forming the first-ever back-to-back solo female Royal Gold Medalists in RIBA's history.
Throughout her impactful career, Lokko has served as the dean of the CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture and founded the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg. Her influence extends globally, having taught in the UK, US, and Africa. The RIBA Honours Committee commends her work as a "clarion call for equitable representation in policies, planning, and design that shape our spaces."
In recognition of her achievements, Lokko was awarded an OBE for her services to architecture and education last year. She also made history as the first black curator of the International Architecture Biennale in Venice.
Muyiwa Oki, President of RIBA, lauds Lokko as "a fierce champion of equity and inclusion." He emphasizes her progressive approach to architecture education as a beacon of hope for the future, envisioning a profession that embraces individuals from diverse backgrounds and considers environmental needs, cultures, and perspectives.
Describing Lokko as a "visionary agent of change" and a "humble revolutionary force," Oki acknowledges her indelible mark on the global architectural stage. Upon receiving the RIBA award, Lokko expressed her surprise and delight, attributing the achievement to the collaborative efforts of people and organizations that share her goals.
In her words, "Although this is a personal award, this isn't merely a personal triumph; this is a testament to the people and organizations I have worked with that share my goals." Lokko reflects on her architectural journey, stating, "I came into architecture seeking certainties, looking for answers. Instead, I found questions and possibilities, far richer, more curious, and more empathetic ways to interpret and shape the world."
Lesley Lokko is set to formally receive the Royal Gold Medal 2024 at an event on May 2 at RIBA's headquarters in London.