Gold standard

Ghanaian-Scottish architect Lesley Lokko has won architecture’s Royal Gold Medal.
Photographs: Debra Hurford-Brown, RIBA.
Photographs: Debra Hurford-Brown, RIBA.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced on 18 January that Professor Lesley Lokko, the acclaimed Ghanaian-Scottish architect, educator, author and curator, will receive the Royal Gold Medal 2024 for architecture. 


Presented in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture. Previous winners include Yasmeen Lari, Sir David Chipperfield, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Neave Brown and the City of Barcelona. 


As the 2024 recipient, Lokko – the first African woman to win the award –  is being recognised for her commitment to championing diverse approaches to architectural practice and education. TThroughout her career, the 60-year-old multipotentialite 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.


Describing the award as ‘a surprise’, Lokko said, ‘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, it is a testament to the people and organisations I have worked with that share my goals.’


Lokko, who founded the African Futures Institute in Accra, Ghana, in 2021, has previously held educational positions in institutions around the world, including as the founder and director of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg and the dean of The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York.


Last year, Lokko became the first person of African descent to curate the Venice Biennale's architecture event, where she focused on the themes of decarbonisation and decolonisation.


Lokko described architecture as having given her ‘language, in all its forms – visual, written, built, performed – and that language, in turn, has given me such hope’. ‘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.’

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