Ghanaian-Scottish architect Lesley Lokko has become the first African woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, for her work to “democratise” the industry.
The honour is given by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) and approved by the monarch each year.
Ghanaian-Scottish Lokko was also made an OBE in the recent New Year Honours list by King Charles, who is known to have a keen interest in architecture.
Riba commended Lokko’s work focusing on Africa and the so-called Global South.
The 60-year-old is known for her work as an architecture teacher and academic in universities and other institutions around the world, rather than for designing grand building projects herself.
She has championed bringing people of colour and other under-represented backgrounds into architecture over the past two decades.
Last year, Lokko became the first woman of African descent to curate the Venice Biennale’s architecture event, where she focused on the themes of decarbonisation and decolonisation.
In 2021, she founded the educational African Futures Institute in Accra, Ghana, to further explore complex relationship between architecture, identity and race.
Lokko is also a best-selling novelist.
Riba described her as a “renaissance figure”, and its president Muyiwa Oki called her “a visionary agent of change”.
“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,” he said.
The medal will be formally presented to Lokko in London in May.
The Royal Gold Medal was first awarded in 1848 and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence on the advancement of architecture.