Lesley Lokko

2 minute read
By Ava DuVernay

Lesley Lokko is one of those forces of nature who does many things well. She’s an acclaimed architect and academic, having established the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture. But one of the things I love about her is that while she was thriving as a star in the architecture world, she was also writing novels. Yes, she’s penned more than a dozen books chronicling tales of intrigue, romance, and adventure. Like I told you, force of nature.

So when I met her in Venice last summer as the curator of the monumental Architecture Biennale, the industry’s largest festival, I was reliably dazzled by her brilliance and focus. The first person of African descent appointed to the esteemed position, she chose to call her singular showcase “The Laboratory of the Future.” This colossal exhibition included 89 participants with over half from Africa or the African diaspora, giving voice to a new generation of artists. And it boasted complete gender parity. Like I told you, force of nature.

And in January, Lesley won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ gold medal—the first Black woman to be so honored since its founding in 1848. Her extraordinary trajectory eviscerates the old world that had maintained a dominant perspective in architecture—one that she calls “a singular, exclusive voice, whose reach and power ignores huge swathes of humanity ... as though we have been listening and speaking in one tongue only.” Now, we hear hers. Lesley creates new landscapes to re-imagine access and impact and vision and vibrant futures. Her presence in the world of architecture is the very foundation upon which fresh perspectives and passions will flourish. She is indeed a force of nature. A force for change. A force for good. 

DuVernay is an Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker

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