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Lesley Lokko: First African Woman to Win the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal Award

Lesley Lokko RIBA gold medal

Professor Lesley Lokko, a Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, and novelist, has made history by becoming the first woman of African descent to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work and presented on behalf of His Majesty the King, the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence on the advancement of architecture.

Lokko is also the third woman to receive this award after architects Zaha Hadid and Yasmeen Lari.

The 60-year-old Ghanaian-Scottish architect is honoured for remarkable contributions to justice and commitment to “democratize architecture.”

She has dedicated over two decades to fostering diversity in architecture. In 2021, she established the African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana, exploring architecture, identity, and race relationships.

The Royal Institute of British Architects chose Lokko for actively pursuing inclusivity and equity in the field of architecture.

Commending the 2024 award winner, 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 endeavours but through her work as an author and curator,” he continued.

“She remains a humble revolutionary force, with her ambition and optimism etching an indelible mark on the global architectural stage.”

Describing this win as “a surprise” and a testament to the people and organizations she has worked with that share her goals, Lokko reflected that “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 organizations I have worked with that share my goals,” she said.

“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.”

Lokko will receive the 2024 Royal Gold Medal in London on May 2, 2024. This follows other outstanding awards she has earned, such as the OBE in 2023 and the RIBA Annie Spink Award in 2020, which recognizes her architectural and educational achievements.

This accolade signifies a milestone for Lokko as the first woman of African descent to receive the Gold Medal since 1848.

Lesley Lokko RIBA gold medal

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