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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"The Most Important Room in the World"

The unveiling of the restored UN Security Council Chamber, what's called "the most important room in the world," happened earlier this evening. Below are some photos I took and some brief explanation of the original project and the ceremony.

UN Security Council Chamber

The room, situated within the United Nations Conference Building, was presented to the UN as a gift from Norway in 1952. It was designed by architect Arnstein Arneberg, though most of one's attention is drawn to Per Krohg's mural that graces the east wall and serves as a backdrop for the members seated at the circular table.

UN Security Council Chamber

Arneberg designed the room to embody the Norwegian art and culture of the time, though he also wanted a "character so neutral that it could withstand the test of time." While hardly timeless, the combination of modern architecture, a figurative mural, modern furnishings, and richly patterned wallpaper is a successful one that manages to exude calm and respect.

UN Security Council Chamber

One detail pointed out both in the informative pamphlet and during the Norweigan Minister of Foreign Affairs' address is how the ashtrays (next to the microphones on the circular table, above) have been exchanged for data outlets; the detail is the same but the function under the black cover conveys the changes that have taken place in the last 60 years, or more accurately the last decade.

UN Security Council Chamber

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (below) addressed the packed house, saying (I think rather nicely and accurately) that "the room speaks to us in a language of dignity." Espen Barth Eide, the Norweigan Minister of Foreign Affairs, said later that the room is "an inspiring space for carrying out the UN's core tenets of peace and security."

UN Security Council Chamber

Overlooking the circular table and large mural are about 20 rows of seats, half of them fixed red seats (the same as the ones flanking the circular table, visible in the second and second-to-last photos) and half of them folding green seats (below). In this upper section of the space the Damask wallpaper designed by Norway's Else Poulsson has a really strong presence. The original wallpaper was removed and remade as part of the restoration; one piece of the old wallpaper was made into a tie and given to Ban Ki-moon as a gift.

UN Security Council Chamber

This last view of the UN Security Council Chamber shows the seats that flank the circular table. For some reason the photo does not capture the greenness of the wallpaper, but I think it reveals how the furnishings and materials manage to work together, even as the combination of modern, marble, and regular pattern blends some usually irreconcilable design features.

UN Security Council Chamber

After the ceremony there were some drinks in the North Delegate's Lounge (below). I'm including this photo because it shows how many people turned out for the unveiling, and because of the view of the residential towers in Long Island City, Queens, thankfully filtered by some decorative hangings in front of the glass.

UN Security Council Chamber

7 comments:

  1. I loved the interior architecture of this public building. It SobirĂ¡ classic and elegant.

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  2. Actually I never saw this before even on television,...Nice interior very artistic it showcase the elegant of the place. Very Nice

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  3. In the old photos, there is a rectangular table in between the horseshoe table with people furiously working. That has been removed in the renovated chamber. Why?

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  4. I, too, am interested in the significance of the UN Security Council Chamber table and chairs. In all the descriptions of the Chambers and restoration, nothing is written of the genesis of the design of the table and chairs. Who designed them ?

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  5. I heard, some initials were carved on the table. Were those removed during the restoration project or can they still be seen as "remembrance"?

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    1. I don't remember hearing anything about that, but I'd hope that the carving were kept.

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