Architecture Events

Ghanian-Scottish architect Lesley Lokko appointed curator of Venice Architecture Biennale in 2023

December 16, 2021

Architect, author and educator Lesley Lokko has been named curator of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. In a press statement released recently, the organisation announced that Ms Lokko was appointed as the curator of the next edition by the board of La Biennale di Venezia upon the recommendation of President Roberto Cicutto.

Top image credit: ©_Murdo_Macleod/Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

The 18th edition of the exhibition will be held from May 20 through November 26, 2023, with a pre-opening scheduled for May 18 and 19. Remarkably, the 17th Architecture Biennale, curated by Hashim Sarkis, concluded last month after hosting nearly 300,000 visitors and more during the previews. This number exceeds even the 2018 edition of the festival that was not impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Lokko is the first person of African descent to be appointed to the lead curatorial role and 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.”

Roberto Cicutto, President, La Biennale di Venezia

Dundee-born Ms Lokko is an alumnus of the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and the University of London, where she received her PhD in Architecture in 2007.

As an educator, she has taught at a number of global institutions, such as Iowa State University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Michigan, Kingston University London, and the University of Westminster among them. She also served as head of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, which she founded in 2015 as the sole dedicated postgraduate school of architecture in Africa and the only school on the continent to follow the Unit System, a pedagogical method first developed at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.

Ms Lokko, a successful bestselling novelist, has always been vocal about the lack of support for people of African origin in reputed institutions. She quit as the dean of the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College of New York, and joined Cooper Union in New York and the University of Virginia as a visiting faculty. Additionally, Ms Lokko established the African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana, a long-term project that she had been working on for the past two decades.

Lokko, who served on the jury of the Golden Lion Awards for the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, said of her appointment:

“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.”

Lesley Lokko, Curator, Venice Architecture Biennale 2023

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