The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced today in London that Lesley Lokko—the renowned architect, professor, author, and curator—will receive the 2024 Royal Gold Medal for architecture.
The Royal Gold Medal is considered one of the world’s highest honors in architecture and is presented on behalf of His Majesty the King Charles III. Professor Lokko was recognized this year for her commitment to championing diverse approaches to architectural practice and education, RIBA said in a statement.
“It came as such a surprise to me,” Lokko said in a statement. “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,” Lokko continued. “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.”
Lesley Lokko’s latest feat was curating the 18th International Architecture Biennale in Venice. Under the theme The Laboratory of the Future, Lokko placed Africa at the exhibition’s center and challenged architects to focus on decarbonization and decolonization.
In 2021, Lokko founded the African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana—a pan-African think tank that champions teaching and research on topics related to race, environmental justice, and new forms of urbanism.
Before founding AFI, Lokko taught at universities around the world. She was the founder and director of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg and a former dean of The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York.
RIBA credits Lokko with devoting her career to amplifying under-represented voices and leading the charge on the relationship between architecture, identity, and race, RIBA elaborated, and profoundly impacting architectural education, dialogue, and discourse. Lokko’s mission to “democratize architecture” was hailed by the 2024 RIBA Honors Committee as a “clarion call for equitable representation in policies, planning, and design that shape our spaces.”
“A fierce champion of equity and inclusion in all aspects of life,” RIBA President Muyiwa Oki said, who chaired the 2024 Royal Gold Medal selection committee. “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.”