by Zohra KhanAug 06, 2020
Professor Lesley Lokko has been awarded the 2020 RIBA Annie Spink Award – a coveted biennial prize by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) presented for excellence in architectural education.
Lokko is the second woman recipient to have won the prize after English architect and educator Christine Hawley who received it in 2016.
The award, incepted in 2000, is given every two years to an individual ‘who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of architectural education, in a school of architecture anywhere in the world that offers courses validated by the RIBA’.
Having been appointed as the Dean of Architecture at the Spitzer School of Architecture in New York City in June 2019 and after only 10 months into her tenure, Lokko resigned from her role in October 2020 citing lack of respect and empathy on account of ethnicity and a crippling workload as the reason for her withdrawal. From January 2021, the 57-year-old Bartlett School of Architecture graduate will embark on shaping an independent postgraduate school of architecture in Accra, Ghana, called the African Futures Institute.
“This award is for everyone who came out in support of the Black Lives Matter protests, which put such difficult and challenging questions on the table for us all,” she said in a statement.
“It is also dedicated to the teachers and students at the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, whose tenacity and inventiveness have charted a new path for architectural education. Together with the profound intellectual generosity I experienced as a student at the Bartlett School of Architecture in the 1990s, they remain crucial touchstones in my teaching practice, now and in whatever comes next,” she added.
RIBA President Professor Alan Jones described Lokko as a ‘deserving winner’.
“Lesley has demonstrated impactful leadership, passion and an unwavering commitment to architectural education and research, and lectured and published widely on the subjects of race, identity and architecture. I am delighted to present her with this accolade,” Jones said in a statement shared by RIBA.
Having taught at various North American and African higher education institutions, and extensively written around themes of cultural and racial identity, Lokko’s long spanning career address a more pluralistic, inclusive, and open culture of education.
Born in Dundee, Scotland, to a Ghanaian surgeon father and a Scottish Jewish mother, Lokko grew up in Ghana and Scotland until the age of 17 when she was sent to a private boarding school in England. She studied Hebrew and Arabic at the Oxford University but left the programme to go to the United States, where she graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture.
With her work, she continues to break boundaries and transform the narrative of architectural education along with enhancing and defining the role of an architect in shaping contemporary and local communities.