"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

Monday, Monday

A Weekly Dose of Architecture Updates:

This week's dose features the Coach Flagship, Omotesando in Tokyo, Japan, by OMA:
this week's dose

The featured past dose is McCormick Tribune Campus Center in Chicago, Illinois, by OMA:
this       week's  dose

This week's book review is Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Architecture after Images by Edward Dimendberg (L):
this week's book review this week's book review
(R): The featured past book review is Scanning: The Aberrant Architectures of Diller + Scofidio edited by Aaron Betsky.

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American-Architects Building of the Week:

Iowa Utilities Board – Office of Consumer Advocate in Des Moines, Iowa, by BNIM:
this week's Building of the Week

The Vienna Model

Tomorrow, Tuesday April 16, is the opening of The Vienna Model, an exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York curated by Wolfgang Förster and William Menking. The opening includes a panel discussion at 5pm (RSVP required) and a opening reception (no reservations required) following at 6pm. See below for more information on the exhibition that runs until September 2, 2013.


From the ACFNY exhibition page:
This exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York presents a survey of public housing design in the Austrian capital of Vienna curated by Wolfgang Förster and William Menking. The exhibition will feature 36 case studies in Viennese public housing, accompanied by a responsive series of images of artworks curated by the Austrian collaborative duo Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber.

The City of Vienna has achieved extraordinary milestones with regard to public housing: today, about 60% of the Viennese population lives in municipally built, owned, or managed housing, and the city is clearly in control of the housing market. This stands in stark contrast to the United States, where, in most cases, the private market is the provider of housing and is often even relied upon to rehabilitate existing neighborhoods and create new communities. Vienna’s housing model contributes to a tangible positive impact; for the past four consecutive years, Vienna topped the Mercer “Quality of Living” survey as the city boasting the world’s highest quality of life in the world, was ranked second in The Economist’s 2012 “World’s Most Livable City”, and number eight in Monocle’s 2012 “World’s Most Livable Cities”.

This successful model dates back to the days of “Red Vienna”, in the early 20th century, when the socialist government took an active interest in designing for the masses. That interest has since evolved into a housing-policy that has produced works by a host of prolific architects and studios over the years, such as those of Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, Richard Neutra, and Margarete Schütte Lihotzky.

The projects featured in The Vienna Model are characteristic for contemporary Viennese public housing trends, some little-known outside the city: The Kabelwerk Estate, which involved turning the grounds of an old electrical cable & wiring factory into an entirely new urban area (completed in 2007, Hermann & Valentiny & Partners, Mascha & Seethaler, Schwalm-Theiss-Gressenbauer, Martin Wurnig, pool Architektur, Werkstatt Wien Spiegelfeld, Holnsteiner & Co.). Other examples include an Inter-ethnic housing complex (Peter Scheinfinger and Partners, 1998-2000), Bike City (königlarch architects, 2005 - 2008), and the Sargfabrik (BKK-2, Johnny Winter, 1996 - 2001), a former coffin manufacturing plant turned into a housing complex: this project was planned by a residents’ group in Vienna’s densely built-up fourteenth district, and has since received international acclaim for its outstanding architecture as well as its social concept of introducing a new communal infrastructure into a low-profile urban area.