Ghanaian-Scottish Architect And Educator, and Professor Lesley Lokko OBE wins the 2024 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture

01 Lesley Lokko PhJacopo Salvi CourtesyLa Biennale di Venezia full

In a historic moment for the architectural community, Professor Lesley Lokko OBE, a distinguished Ghanaian-Scottish architect, educator, and curator, has been bestowed with the 2024 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. This prestigious honor, presented by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), marks a historic milestone as Professor Lokko becomes the first African woman and the to receive this esteemed accolade.

Renowned for her unwavering commitment to “democratizing” the architecture industry, Professor Lokko’s influence extends far beyond the traditional boundaries of the profession. The Royal Gold Medal, annually approved by the monarch, acknowledges individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the field of architecture, and this year, it recognizes Professor Lokko’s transformative impact on the industry.

King Charles, in conferring the Order of the British Empire (OBE) upon Professor Lokko in the recent New Year Honours list, acknowledged her substantial achievements and dedication to the field. With a keen interest in architecture, King Charles commended Professor Lokko for her outstanding work that focuses on Africa and the Global South.

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Lesley Lokko at the Venice Beinnale last year. Photograph: Jacopo Salvi

In a recent statement, Professor Lokko expressed her astonishment at being awarded the Royal Gold Medal, describing the moment as “a slightly out-of-body experience.” She reflected on the journey that led her to this pinnacle of recognition, noting that it was a testament to her dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the architectural realm.

Having received her OBE from the Princess Royal at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Professor Lokko highlighted the importance of representation within institutions. She emphasized that being part of such institutions is a powerful means to affect change, particularly in addressing complex issues around race and decolonization.

Notably, Professor Lokko’s impact transcends conventional architectural practice. Last year, she curated the Venice Biennale’s architecture event, where she delved into themes of decarbonization and decolonization. Her efforts culminated in her becoming the first woman of African descent to lead this prestigious event.

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Photo by FESTUS JACKSON-DAVIS for RIBA

In 2021, Professor Lokko founded the African Futures Institute in Accra, Ghana, showcasing her commitment to exploring the intricate relationship between architecture, identity, and race. This educational initiative aims to reshape the discourse surrounding architecture and pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse future within the profession.

RIBA President Muyiwa Oki described Professor Lokko as a “renaissance figure” and “a visionary agent of change.” Recognizing her as a “fierce champion of equity and inclusion,” Oki praised Professor Lokko’s progressive approach to architecture education, offering hope for a future where the profession embraces individuals from all walks of life.

The Royal Gold Medal, first awarded in 1848, will be formally presented to Professor Lesley Lokko in London on May 2, 2024. This historic recognition places her among the distinguished ranks of previous recipients, including Dame Zaha Hadid, Sir Norman Foster, and Frank Gehry, solidifying her legacy as a transformative force in the world of architecture.

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