The winners of the University of Virginia's Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture aren't always architects. In addition to Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, past winners include critics Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs, artist James Turrell, and politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan. This year's winner, Gro Harlem Brundtland, boasts perhaps the most dynamic résumé of all.
A physician by training, Brundtland served as prime minister of Norway for 10 years, the youngest person and first woman ever to hold that position. Much of Brundtland's career has been dedicated to advocacy of environmental and social sustainability in her positions as Norwegian minister of environment, chair of the U.N.'s World Commission on Environment and Development, and director general of the World Health Organization.
While Brundtland was at the United Nations, her commission published the report Our Common Future. Also known as the “Brundtland Report,” the document advocated a broad, multidimensional understanding of sustainability, encompassing energy and food consumption, industrial and economic practices, human health and resources, species and ecosystems, and international cooperation and decision-making systems. The report's recommendations led to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the precursor to the Kyoto Protocol.
“In honoring Dr. Brundtland, we celebrate her legendary leadership in global sustainability and the stewardship of our environment,” says U.Va. architecture school dean Karen Van Lengen.