Professor Lesley Lokko Shatters Glass Ceiling with Historic RIBA Gold Medal Win

Lesley Lokko Shatters Glass Ceiling with Historic RIBA Gold Medal Win
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In a groundbreaking achievement that marks a significant milestone in the world of architecture, Professor Lesley Lokko has been honored with the prestigious Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). This accolade not only celebrates her remarkable career but also recognizes her as the first African woman to receive this esteemed award.

Lesley Lokko’s Background and Career

Born to a Ghanaian father and a Scottish mother, Lesley Lokko’s unique heritage has played a pivotal role in shaping her perspectives and contributions to architecture. As an architect, educator, and author, Lokko has dedicated her career to advocating for justice and democratizing the field of architecture. Her work transcends traditional boundaries, blending creativity with a deep commitment to social causes.

Breaking Barriers in Architecture: Lesley Lokko's Historic Win as First African Woman to Claim RIBA's Top Honor
Breaking Barriers in Architecture: Lesley Lokko’s Historic Win as First African Woman to Claim RIBA’s Top Honor

Establishment of the African Futures Institute

In 2021, Lokko founded the African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana. This innovative institution aims to explore the complex interplay between architecture, identity, and race. The AFI stands as a testament to Lokko’s vision of creating a more inclusive and diverse architectural landscape.

Historical Significance of the Award

Lokko’s recognition by RIBA is historically significant. She is the first woman of African descent to be awarded the Gold Medal since its inception in 1848. Following in the footsteps of Yasmeen Lari, last year’s recipient, Lokko and Lari represent the first-ever back-to-back solo female Royal Gold Medalists, marking a new era in the field of architecture.

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Lokko’s Global Impact and Educational Roles

Lokko’s influence extends far beyond the borders of Ghana. She 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 teaching career spans across the UK, US, and Africa, impacting students and professionals worldwide.

Recognition and Honors

Lokko’s contributions to architecture and education were recognized with an OBE award last year. Additionally, she made history as the first black curator of the International Architecture Biennale in Venice, further cementing her status as a leading figure in the architectural world.

RIBA’s Acknowledgment of Lokko’s Work

Muyiwa Oki, President of RIBA, praised Lokko as a “fierce champion of equity and inclusion.” He highlighted her progressive approach to architecture education, envisioning a profession that is inclusive and reflective of diverse cultures and environmental needs.

Lokko’s Vision and Philosophy

Upon receiving the RIBA award, Lokko expressed her surprise and delight, emphasizing the collaborative nature of her achievements. She reflected on her journey in architecture, 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.”

The Award Ceremony

Lesley Lokko is set to formally receive the Royal Gold Medal 2024 at a ceremony on May 2 at RIBA’s headquarters in London. This event will not only honor her individual achievements but also celebrate her contributions to the broader architectural community.

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Lesley Lokko’s recognition by RIBA is more than just an award; it is a symbol of the evolving landscape of architecture, where diversity, inclusion, and social justice are becoming integral parts of the narrative. Her achievements pave the way for future generations of architects, particularly women and those from diverse backgrounds, to aspire and contribute to this dynamic field. Lesley Lokko’s story is not just about architectural excellence; it’s about breaking barriers and redefining what it means to be a leader in this ever-evolving discipline.

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