Lesley Lokko

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Lesley Lokko

Lesley Lokko.jpg
BornLesley Naa Norle Lokko
Dundee, Scotland
OccupationArchitect, academic, novelist
Alma materUniversity College London[1]

Lesley Naa Norle Lokko OBE is a Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, and novelist.[1] From 2019 to 2020 she was a professor and served as Dean of Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture City College of New York,[2] in addition to juggling teaching positions and different careers in Johannesburg, London, Accra and Edinburgh.[3]

In 2015, Lokko established the Graduate School of Architecture (GSA) at University of Johannesburg – an African school dedicated to postgraduate architecture education.[4] She returned to Accra, Ghana, in 2021 and established the African Futures Institute, a postgraduate school of architecture and public events platform.

Early life and education[edit]

Lesley Lokko was born in Dundee, the daughter of a Ghanaian surgeon and a Scottish mother, and grew up in Ghana and Scotland.[5][6] At the age of 17 she went to a private boarding school in England.[7] She began studying Hebrew and Arabic at Oxford University, but left the programme to go to the United States.[6] She graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, with a BSc(Arch) in 1992, and a MArch in 1995, and went on to earn a PhD in architecture from the University of London in 2007.[8]


As writer and editor[edit]

Much of Lokko's writing contains themes about cultural and racial identity.[9] She regularly lectures in South Africa,[6] and has also taught in the United Kingdom and the United States.[1] She also writes regularly for The Architectural Review.[10] She was editor of White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Culture, Architecture (University of Minnesota Press, 2000), and editor-in-chief of FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture, as well as being on the editorial board of ARQ (Cambridge), and a series editor of Design Research in Architecture (UCL Press).[11] She is a contributor to the 2019 anthology New Daughters of Africa (edited by Margaret Busby).[12]

In 2004, Lokko published her first novel, Sundowners, a Guardian top 40 bestseller, following up with 11 further novels, including Saffron Skies (2005), Bitter Chocolate (2008), One Secret Summer (2010), A Private Affair (2011) and Little White Lies (2014).[13] As characterised by The Scotsman in 2012, what Lokko writes "is 'glam lit' with women in high flying, exciting jobs who jet around the globe rubbing shoulders and other parts with devious men from the upper ranks of high society in twisting, intelligently spun tales."[5] In 2020, she moved from Orion to PanMacmillan with her novel Soul Sisters.[14]


Lokko has taught architecture all over the globe. Before exiting the United States, She was an assistant professor in Architecture at Iowa State University from 1997 to 1998 and at University of Illinois at Chicago from 1998 to 2000.[2] In 2000, she became the Martin Luther King Visiting Professor of architecture at the University of Michigan.[15] She then moved back to the United Kingdom for almost a decade, teaching architecture at Kingston University, University of North London and, finally, University of Westminster, where she established the current Master of Arts programme in the pathway of Architecture, Cultural Identity and Globalisation (MACIG).[2][16]

Lokko was first appointed Visiting African Scholar at the University of Cape Town upon her return to South Africa.[15] Tired of "Europe’s hand-me-downs", Lokko, in partnership with the University of Johannesburg, established the Graduate School of Architecture (GSA) in 2014/2015 and became the director of School. The GSA, modelled after the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and London's Architectural Association, is the only school on the continent offering the Unit System way of teaching.[4]

In 2015, Lokko became Head of the newly established Graduate School and associate professor of architecture at the University of Johannesburg.[17][18][19] She founded the GSA at a time of political imperatives in South Africa and witnessed the large-scale student protests, with the uprising conscious of national identity in postcolonial South Africa.[20]

In June 2019, she was named as dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York, remaining in this position until 2020.[19][21] She is currently founder and director of the African Futures Institute [1] in Accra, Ghana.[22]

In 2021, Lokko was appointed as the curator of the 18th Venice Biennale of Architecture, set to open in 2023.[23][24] The exhibition is titled "The Laboratory of the Future",[25] with the twin themes of decolonisation and decarbonisation providing a "a glimpse of future practices and ways of seeing and being in the world", and Lokko says: "It is impossible to build a better world if one cannot first imagine it."[26]

Honours, awards and recognitions[edit]

Lokko was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2023 New Year Honours for services to architecture and education.[27]

  • 2021 Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for Contribution to Architecture[28]
  • 2020 RIBA Annie Spink Award[29]

Selected published works[edit]

  • 2000: White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Culture, Architecture[1]
  • 2004: Sundowners[1]
  • 2005: Saffron Skies[1]
  • 2008: Bitter Chocolate[1]
  • 2009: Rich Girl, Poor Girl[30]
  • 2010: One Secret Summer[31]
  • 2011: A Private Affair[1]
  • 2012: An Absolute Deception[1]
  • 2014: Little White Lies[1]
  • 2016: The Last Debutante[32]
  • 2021: Soul Sisters[33]

As editor[edit]

  • 2000: White Papers, Black Marks: Architecture, Race, Culture[8]
  • 2017: FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture Vol. 1[2][34]
  • 2020: FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture Vol. 2[34]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lesley Naa Norle Lokko Archived 23 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Pan African Writers' Association.
  2. ^ a b c d "Lesley Lokko". The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  3. ^ "About Lesley", Official website
  4. ^ a b "About the Graduate School of Architecture". Graduate School of Architecture. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Lesley Lokko’s books are worth the weight", The Scotsman, 11 July 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Lesley Lokko talks to Danuta Kean about how to write a blockbuster". Orion Publishing Group.
  7. ^ Mendes-Franco, Janine, "‘They can’t duck the question of decolonisation and transformation anymore’", Global Voices, 24 July 2018.
  8. ^ a b Lesley Lokko profile at The Conversation.
  9. ^ Kean, Danuta (18 January 2008). "Lesley Lokko: 'Don't ask me about 'black culture', I don't know what it is'", The Independent.
  10. ^ Lesley Lokko at The Architectural Review.
  11. ^ "Lesley Lokko: Look Back in Anger". Cornell AAP. Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  12. ^ "New Daughters of Africa" at Myriad Editions.
  13. ^ Musinguzi, Bamuturaki (14 January 2023). "Lokko's 'Soul Sisters' is a tale of love, race, power and secrets". Nation. Kenya. Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  14. ^ Chandler, Mark (12 November 2020). "Lokko moves to Pan Mac with two novels". The Bookseller. Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  15. ^ a b "Lesley Lokko". The Conversation. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  16. ^ "Architecture MA - Courses | University of Westminster, London". www.westminster.ac.uk. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  17. ^ Lesley Lokko Archived 20 July 2019 at the Wayback Machine, Academic biography.
  18. ^ "UJ’s Head of the Graduate School of Architecture, Prof Lesley Lokko, provides mentorship on Made in SA TV Show", University of Johannesburg, 2 August 2018.
  19. ^ a b Russell, James S. (11 June 2019). "Lesley Lokko, Global Architect and Novelist, Appointed Architecture Dean at City College of New York". Architectural Record. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  20. ^ "The Age of Wildfire". www.e-flux.com. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  21. ^ Hickman, Matt (7 October 2020). "Lesley Lokko resigns as dean of Spitzer School of Architecture at City College of New York". The Architect's Newspaper. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  22. ^ "About Us | Management & Leadership". AFI. African Futures Institute. Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  23. ^ Greenberger, Alex (15 December 2021). "Lesley Lokko Becomes First Black Curator to Organize Venice Architecture Biennale". ARTnews. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  24. ^ Moore, Rowan (26 March 2023). "Interview | Architect Lesley Lokko: 'There is a sense in Africa that it is our time'". The Observer.
  25. ^ "Lesley Lokko reveals Venice Architecture Biennale title". Art Review. 31 May 2022. Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  26. ^ "Biennale Architettura 2023: The Laboratory of the Future". La Biennale di Venezia. 21 February 2023. Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  27. ^ "No. 63918". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2022. p. N26.
  28. ^ Crook, Lizzie (22 January 2021). "Kate Macintosh awarded 2021 Jane Drew Prize for women in architecture". Dezeen. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  29. ^ Carlson, Cajsa (4 January 2021). "Lesley Lokko wins 2020 RIBA Annie Spink Award". Dezeen. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  30. ^ Rich Girl, Poor Girl (Hardback) - Lesley Lokko Archived 22 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Orion Publishing Group.
  31. ^ One Secret Summer at Amazon.
  32. ^ Lokko, Lesley (20 April 2017). The Last Debutante. Orion Publishing Group, Limited. ISBN 978-1-4091-3766-5.
  33. ^ Lokko, Lesley (12 May 2022). Soul Sisters. Pan Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-5290-6728-6.
  34. ^ a b ["FOLIO Journal of Contemporary African Architecture", Issuu.

External links[edit]