Professor Lesley Lokko announced as recipient of 2020 RIBA Annie Spink Prize

The former London Met academic was nominated for the award by Dr Matthew Barac, in recognition of her "rigorous and innovative" approach to architectural education.

Date: 04 January 2021

Professor Lesley Lokko has been announced by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) as the recipient of the 2020 RIBA Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Architectural Education.

The prestigious biennial prize is awarded 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.

Professor Lokko has previously taught at London Met, and was nominated by the School of Art, Architecture and Design's Dr Matthew Barac, alongside Kingston University's Professor Andrew Clancy and architecture studio Part W's Zoe Berman. She served a five-year stint as Head of the Graduate School of Architecture, Johannesburg, and has also held posts at Westminster University, the Spitzer School of Architecture, New York, the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Kingston University. As of 2021, she is establishing the African Futures Institute, an independent postgraduate school of architecture in Accra, Ghana. 

On receiving the award, Professor Lesley Lokko said: "I am deeply humbled by the jury's decision. 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. 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."

The nomination was led by London Met's Dr Matthew Barac who said: "There was no question for me that Lesley should be put forward, not just because of who and what she represents but because her leadership qualities run deep. In these distanced and difficult times she brings a sense of the real back into the room: real issues, real values, and real character." 

In their letter of nomination, Barac, Clancy and Berman praised Lokko's "substantial contribution to architectural education…  enables students and educators to find their place in our discipline – and on their own terms. More than ever, current debate recognises the complexity of inequality issues we need to address, in every manifestation in architecture.

"We, in the educational community, benefit from her commitment in forging space for this discussion. Lesley galvanises us to address the prospect of a pluralistic, inclusive, and open culture of education, building upon the rigour of the RIBA tradition. The international reach of her impact is reflected in the diversity of letters of support received from around the world, from former students and colleagues in the countries including the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Austria, the USA, Australia, and beyond.

"Like no other architect – black and female, or otherwise – Lesley has changed the conversation, globally, and not just because of what she says, but because of what she does and who she is. She is a genuine ambassador for all of us and a world leader in architectural education today."

RIBA President Alan Jones said: "Congratulations to Professor Lesley Lokko, the deserving winner of our 2020 Annie Spink Award. Lesley's impressive career in architectural education has spanned decades, and she has established herself as an internationally renowned educator. 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 Professor Lesley Lokko with this accolade."

Previous award winners include the late Florian Beigel, who taught at London Met for over four decades. 

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