Ghanaian-Scottish architect and academic Lesley Lokko has been named curator of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, or, simply, the Venice Architecture Biennale.
The Board of La Biennale di Venezia met on Tuesday, December 14th and, upon the recommendation of President Roberto Cicutto, appointed Lesley Lokko as Director of the Architecture department, with the specific task of curating the 18th International Architecture Exhibition to be held in 2023. The Exhibition will be held from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023 (pre-opening May 18 and 19).
Lokko is the first person of African descent to be appointed for the lead curatorial role and only the fourth woman following Kazuyo Sejima (2010) and Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara (2018).
“The 17th International Architecture Exhibition confirmed, perhaps definitively, the need to represent a discipline so closely intertwined with the needs of humanity and the planet in general. The curators of the Biennale’s International Exhibitions have always tried, through the vision of the participants they invite, to afford us as comprehensive an overview as possible of the themes and projects which are suitable for dealing with future scenarios. The appointment of Lesley Lokko as curator of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition is a way of welcoming the gaze of an international personality who is able to interpret, through different roles, her own position in the contemporary debate on architecture and cities, which takes as its starting point her own experience immersed in a continent that is increasingly becoming a laboratory of experimentation and proposals for the whole contemporary world. I believe that this immersion in reality is the best way to dialogue with the questions raised by the 2021 Exhibition curated by Hashim Sarkis.”
She is the founder and director of the African Futures Institute, established in Accra, Ghana, in 2020 as a postgraduate school of architecture and public events platform. In 2015 she founded the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg.
She has taught in the UK, in the US, Europe, Australia and Africa (the Bartlett School of Architecture, Kingston University and London Metropolitan University in London; Iowa State University and University of Illinois at Chicago in the USA; University of Johannesburg and University of Cape Town in South Africa; and UTS in Sydney, Australia).
She is the recipient of a number of awards for contributions to architectural education, among them: the RIBA Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Education 2020; the AR Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for Contributions to Architecture 2021. In 2019, she took up an appointment as Dean of Architecture at The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, CCNY, from which she subsequently resigned in 2020 to start the African Futures Institute in her home country, Accra, Ghana.
For the past thirty years, her work in both architecture and literature has looked at the relationship between ‘race’, culture, and space. In 2004, she made the transition from architecture to fiction with the publication of her first novel Sundowners (Orion), following up with further novels. Her thirteenth novel, The Lonely Hour, is forthcoming in 2023 from Pan Macmillan.
She is the founder and editor-in-chief of FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture. She is the author of White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Space and Architecture (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press 2000).
She holds a PhD in Architecture from the University of London and a BSc (Arch) and MArch from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. She is currently a founding member of the Council on Urban Initiatives, co-founded by LSE Cities, UN Habitat and UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose; a UCL Press Series Guest Editor and a Visiting Professor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.
Lokko was a member of the International Jury of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2021.
“A new world order is emerging, with new centres of knowledge production and control. New audiences are also emerging, hungry for different narratives, different tools and different languages of space, form, and place. After two of the most difficult and divisive years in living memory, architects have a unique opportunity to show the world what we do best: put forward ambitious and creative ideas that help us imagine a more equitable and optimistic future in common. Speaking to you from the world’s youngest continent, I would like to thank President Cicutto and the entire team of La Biennale di Venezia for this bold, brave choice.”