One of the world’s highest honours in architecture goes to architect, educator, author and curator Lesley Lokko.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced that Professor Lesley Lokko, the acclaimed Ghanaian-Scottish architect, educator, author and curator, will receive the Royal Gold Medal 2024 for architecture. One of the world’s highest honours in architecture – presented on behalf of His Majesty the King – the medal recognises Lokko’s commitment to championing diverse approaches to architectural practice and education.
For over two decades, Lokko has devoted her career to amplifying under-represented voices and examining the complex relationship between architecture, identity and race, profoundly impacting architectural education, dialogue and discourse.
Her work to “democratise architecture” has been hailed by the RIBA Honours Committee 2024 as a “clarion call for equitable representation in policies, planning, and design that shape our spaces”.
In 2021, she founded the African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana, aiming to be a new model of education, research and public dialogue that unites the arts, humanities and sciences and “reimagines Africa as the crucible of the future”. Operating as a pan-African think tank, the institute champions cutting-edge teaching and world-class research to confront contemporary challenges around race, environmental justice and new forms of urbanism.
Prior to establishing the AFI, Lokko taught around the world and reframed architecture courses to democratise, decolonise and progress architectural education. Notable roles include Founder and Director of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg and Dean of The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York.
In 2023, Lokko was awarded an OBE for services to architecture and education and was appointed Curator of the 18th International Architecture Biennale in Venice. Titled ‘The Laboratory of the Future’, the exhibition placed Africa at its centre and included its first ever educational component. The Biennale College Architettura saw 50 students from across the globe come together for a four-week teaching programme, focused on the twin themes of the exhibition – decarbonisation and decolonisation.
On hearing the news, Lesley 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.
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.”
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.
A visionary agent of change, Lesley has dedicated her life to championing these values, not only through academic endeavors, but through her work as an author and curator. She remains a humble revolutionary force, with her ambition and optimism etching an indelible mark on the global architectural stage.”
The Royal Gold Medal 2024 will be formally presented to Lesley Lokko in London on 2 May 2024.
The 2024 Royal Gold Medal selection committee was chaired by RIBA President Muyiwa Oki and comprised of Royal Gold Medal 2023 recipient Yasmeen Lari, architect and senior partner at RSHP Ivan Harbour, Head of School and Chief Executive at the London School of Architecture Neal Shasore, and Cindy Walters, architect and partner at Walters & Cohen.
Professor Lesley Lokko OBE is a Ghanian-Scottish architect, educator and best-selling novelist. She is the Founder and Director of the African Futures Institute (AFI), established in Accra, Ghana in 2021. She graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL in 1992 before earning a PhD in architecture in 2007 from the University of London. In December 2021, she was appointed as Curator of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. In December 2022, she was awarded an OBE in the first New Year’s Honours List by King Charles III, ‘for services to architecture and education.’