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5 Minutes With Architect and Educator Lesley Lokko

Pan-Africanist Lesley Lokko is a part-time author as well as head of school at the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture.

Deborah Hurford Brown

Currently the head of school at the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture, Lesley Lokko was born in Dundee, Scotland, but raised in Ghana, West Africa. 'I left Ghana because I was sent to an English boarding school,' she says. 'And there was a coup d’état...'.

As well as being an architect and educator, she is also a novelist who writes what she describes as 'chick-lit "bonkbusters"’ in her spare time. We caught up with her in Joburg recently.

Lesley Lokko | House and Leisure

5 Minutes With Architect and Educator Lesley Lokko

What's the best thing about being an architect in Africa at the moment?

We’re the world’s youngest continent in terms of average age, and it shows: enormous energy, youthfulness and vigour!

And we have to ask – why erotic fiction?

I started writing it because I wanted to make some money.

Okay, back to your 'day job': what's the most common misconception about architects?

People think architects are organised and boring. But the reality of being an architect is a lot of chop and change. They really are Jacks- and Jills-of-all-trades.

What is your earliest memory of design?

The long, low horizontal lines of the bungalow in Takoradi, Ghana, where I grew up. 

And what's your favourite piece of design in Johannesburg?

The CBD. It never fails to impress. 

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Your kitchen cupboard staples?

Sun-dried tomatoes and Ghanaian pepper sauce, though eaten separately. 

And your go-to comfort food?

Everything, sadly. 

What's your best spot for eating out in Joburg?

Lucky Bean Restaurant in Melville. They know me so well, I don’t have to order. 

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What is your favourite winter drink?

Babylonstoren Chardonnay. (It’s my summer drink, too.) 

What do you always travel with?

My passport and a little pink wooden pig that my sister gave me. I’ve no idea why. 

What is the one place you have visited that you'll never forget? 

Réunion Island.

And what do you like to bring back from your travels?

I always like to bring back memories (as opposed to photographs).

Where is your next dream holiday destination?

Edinburgh. It’s my favourite place to unwind.

If money were no object, what would you treat yourself to?

An exceedingly early retirement. 

What are you reading?

'The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914' by Margaret MacMillan and 'The Women' by TC Boyle.

And listening to?

Spotify (which does the choosing for me).

What is the best advice you have ever received?

To not waste people’s time telling them what you don’t want to do. Tell them what you do want to do – and make it snappy.

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