The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named Ghanaian-Scottish architect, educator and author Lesley Lokko as the 2024 recipient of the prestigious RIBA Royal Gold Medal.
The 60-year-old architect receives the award for her work surrounding justice causes and other attempts to “democratize architecture”.
Lokko has long championed bringing people of colour and other under-represented backgrounds into architecture over the past two decades, and in 2021, she founded the educational African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana, to further explore complex relationship between architecture, identity and race.
She becomes the first woman of African descent to win the Gold Medal since its founding in 1848, and joins last year’s winner Yasmeen Lari as the first-ever back-to-back solo female Royal Gold Medalists in RIBA history.
Through her tenure as dean of the CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture and founding director of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, Lokko has been greatly influential in her field.
She has taught in the UK, US and Africa, and her work has been hailed by the RIBA Honours Committee as a “clarion call for equitable representation in policies, planning, and design that shape our spaces”.
Last year, Lokko was awarded an OBE for services to architecture and education, and became the first black curator of the International Architecture Biennale in Venice.
RIBA President, Muyiwa Oki said: “A fierce champion of equity and inclusion in all aspects of life, Lesley Lokko’s progressive approach to architecture education offers hope for the future – a profession that welcomes those from all walks of life, considers the needs of our environment, and acknowledges a broad range of cultures and perspectives.”
He went on to describe Lokko as “a visionary agent of change” and a “humble revolutionary force, with her ambition and optimism etching an indelible mark on the global architectural stage.”
Upon receiving the RIBA award, Lokko said: “It came as such a surprise to me. This was never on the cards. I’m delighted to be considered alongside some of the great past winners of the Royal Gold Medal.”
“Although this is a personal award, this isn’t merely a personal triumph, this is a testament to the people and organisations I have worked with that share my goals,” said Lokko.
“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. Architecture gave me language, in all its forms — visual, written, built, performed — and that language, in turn, has given me such hope,” she added.
Lokko will formally receive the Royal Gold Medal 2024 at an event on 2 May at RIBA’s headquarters in London.
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