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Lesley Lokko appointed curator of Venice Architecture Biennale 2023

Italy Architecture News - Dec 15, 2021 - 10:48   1919 views

Lesley Lokko appointed curator of Venice Architecture Biennale 2023

Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, and novelist Professor Lesley Lokko has been appointed as curator of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition in the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023.  

The Venice Architecture Biennale 2023 will be held from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023. 

Lokko, is the first black architect to curate the biannual Venice Architecture Biennale, and is the third woman to lead the exhibition, following Kazuyo Sejima's appointment in 2010 and Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara in 2018.

Lokko's name was selected by the Board of Venice Architecture Biennale on Tuesday, December 14th upon the recommendation of President Roberto Cicutto, who was appointed as the new President of the Venice Biennale in 2020. 

"A new world order is emerging"

"A new world order is emerging, with new centres of knowledge production and control," stated Lesley Lokko. 

"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," added Lokko in her statement. 

Lokko is a leading figure in contributing architectural education

Lokko 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. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture.

In 2015, she also founded the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, a 100-student program is directed by Lokko's leadership. 

Having a quarter-century of academic experience teaching in several schools, 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 was awarded a number of awards for contributions to architectural education, the RIBA Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Education 2020, the AR Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for Contributions to Architecture 2021 are among them. 

For the past thirty years, Lokko's work in both architecture and literature has focused on the relationship between race, culture, and space. 

"Africa is increasingly becoming a laboratory of experimentation"

"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," explained President Cicutto. 

"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," Cicutto stated.

Lesley Lokko was appointed as dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture (SSA) at The City College of New York (CCNY) in June, 2019 but she left her role in 10 months due to "crippling workload and a lack of empathy for black women" in October, 2020. Later, she founded the African Futures Institute in her home country, Accra, Ghana.

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 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.

At the 17th International Architecture Exhibition for Venice Biennale 2020, Hashim Sarkis set the theme as "How will we live together?", tackling the ways of enhancing boundaries of living together in both real and digital era. 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale opened to the public from 22 May to Sunday 21 November 2021.

Top image: Lesley Lokko © Murdo Macleod

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