Christiana Figueres

2018 President's Medal honoree

June 20, 2018

The President’s Medal is The Architectural League’s highest honor and is bestowed, at the discretion of the League’s President and Board of Directors, on individuals to recognize extraordinary achievements in architecture, urbanism, art, design, and the environment.

On June 20, 2018, Architectural League President Billie Tsien awarded the League’s 2018 President’s Medal to Christiana Figueres. As Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), she led the nations of the world to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Medal was presented at a dinner at the Metropolitan Club for 260 guests. Architect and technological innovator Anna Dyson, founding director of Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture; conservation ecologist Eric Sanderson, author of Mannahatta; and landscape architect and MacArthur Fellow Kate Orff, along with Billie Tsien and League executive director Rosalie Genevro celebrated Figueres with remarks.

As part of his remarks, Eric Sanderson said:

When she has the ear of presidents and business people and power brokers on the global stage – including all of you tonight – her optimism creates a platform for connection. It enables us to do what we really did want to do after all, to sign up to voluntarily reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and work together to transparently measure our progress. To use our wealth, our intelligence, our creativity, to care for, rather than destroy, the natural bases of life on Earth.

Kate Orff stated:

It is an honor to speak this evening at an occasion where Christiana Figueres, a courageous woman working on the front lines of diplomacy, advocacy and creativity in the quest to save the earth, is the recipient of the President’s Medal of The Architectural League. Moreover, it’s an incredible moment for the League, a treasured cultural organization that over the years has laureled artists, architects, planners, and patrons of the city, to pivot to a broader context and honor a champion of the planet itself. By celebrating Christiana tonight, we honor the act of convening, of advancing dialogue, and…stewardship as deeply creative acts, that combine grace and vision, grit and gravitas.

In her presentation of the Medal, Billie Tsien read the following citation:

The Architectural League presents its President’s Medal to Christiana Figueres with profound admiration for her work to galvanize the nations and peoples of the world to confront the challenge of climate change. We celebrate her with deep gratitude for her vivifying optimism and indefatigable commitment of passion and energy to this work. As citizens of the world, we honor her for her commitment to science, to innovation, to international diplomacy and compromise, to inclusive decision-making, to environmental justice and a just world order. As architects, designers and builders, we honor her for offering us a model of action based on moral commitment and hope, and for demonstrating how to act with urgency and boldness to take on the encompassing challenge of our era, and in doing so, to imagine the possibility of a better world.

In accepting the Medal, Christiana Figueres remarked:

I happen to think that urban spaces are where the new relationship between nature and society will germinate and thrive. And I also happen to think that this is where a lot of…societal healing is going to take place.

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