Contract - U.N. Trusteeship Council Chamber

design - features - institutional design



U.N. Trusteeship Council Chamber

31 July, 2013

-By Zoe Settle, Photography by 
Hans Ole Madsen


Designers from Denmark are known for their sublime interiors and furniture. Thus, it is fitting that one of the most striking interior renovations in New York this year was to the midcentury modern United Nations (U.N.) chamber by Danish designer Finn Juhl, now beautifully reconceived by a new generation of Danes. The world was still rebuilding after World War II when the U.N. Headquarters was constructed in the early 1950s. Trygve Lie of Norway, the first Secretary-General of the U. N., invited Denmark to design the Trusteeship Council Chamber interior, and the government of Denmark, in turn, commissioned Juhl for the job. The Trusteeship Council supervised the administration of trust territories as they transitioned from colonies to sovereign nations until it was suspended in 1994. Since opening in 1952, the chamber was renovated in 1964 and 1978 to accommodate increases in the number of member states, but those modifications somewhat diluted Juhl’s original design.


Undertaking a reverent renovation  
The latest renovation, by Danish firm Salto & Sigsgaard, restored the chamber primarily to Juhl’s original design, with updates to suit its current purpose as a meeting hall for more than 600 people. In 2011, Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard, partners in the eponymous Copenhagen-based design firm, were selected as the winners of a competition sponsored by the U.N. and the Danish Arts Foundation for the chamber renovation, to which Denmark committed $3.3 million. “We debated how Finn Juhl would have approached the project—blending in with or departing from the existing design,” Salto says. The design by Salto & Sigsgaard pays homage to the original, with accents of bold color in a space where wood dominates, and comfort and convenience are paramount. They sought to restore as much of the original design as possible, aided by the Designmuseum Danmark, which had preserved all of Juhl’s drawings and sample boards. A surprise discovery was made in the renovation process: Two original sconces, from a set of 11 designed by Juhl, which went missing during the last renovation, were found stashed in a space under the chamber’s gallery. “Our motto was to add as few new elements as possible and to really respect the use of wood in the room,” Salto says. The wall paneling and the wood spindles suspended from the ceiling, all made of olive ash wood, were restored. Inserted between the ceiling's slats are the original colorful boxes—which Juhl believed created the impression of greater height in the low-ceiling room—housing the lighting and ventilation units. Echoing the ceiling’s punches of color, a striped carpet is a faithful replica of Juhl’s design, as is the return to his horseshoe-shape seating arrangement, an egalitarian approach demonstrating that all the members are on the same level.

New furnishings echo originals

Curved, oak delegate tables—designed by Salto & Saarsgaard with a simple upside-down L-shape in profile—define the chamber’s seating configuration. Chartreuse leather seats for assistants are placed in rows directly behind the delegates’ armchairs. At the tables, the armchairs—produced by Danish manufacturer Onecollection, which holds the rights to Juhl’s furniture—are modified versions of Juhl’s original blue FJ51 delegate chairs. The new FJ51 has a slightly narrower seat and armrest to accommodate the chamber’s increased capacity, and is made of oak rather than the original ash. “The ash available today is very light in color [compared to what was available 60 years ago], so for better color match we selected oak for the new furniture,” Sigsgaard says.The designers also put their mark on the chamber with their own newly designed Council Chair, produced by Onecollection with an oak veneer and leather, surrounding a new secretariat table. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark unveiled the completed chamber renovation in April—to unanimous approval. No doubt Juhl himself would have been pleased.  


Key Design Highlights

  • The renovation revives wood details and colorful accents that   were part of Juhl’s original vision.
  • An appearance of equality returns with the restoration 
of the chamber’s horseshoe 
configuration.
  • A modified version of Juhl’s 
FJ51 chair accomodates the 
chamber’s increased capacity.
  • Salto & Sigsgaard designed 
a new Council Chair and 
secretariat tables that 
complement the midcentury modern interior.




U.N. Trusteeship Council Chamber

31 July, 2013


Designers from Denmark are known for their sublime interiors and furniture. Thus, it is fitting that one of the most striking interior renovations in New York this year was to the midcentury modern United Nations (U.N.) chamber by Danish designer Finn Juhl, now beautifully reconceived by a new generation of Danes. The world was still rebuilding after World War II when the U.N. Headquarters was constructed in the early 1950s. Trygve Lie of Norway, the first Secretary-General of the U. N., invited Denmark to design the Trusteeship Council Chamber interior, and the government of Denmark, in turn, commissioned Juhl for the job. The Trusteeship Council supervised the administration of trust territories as they transitioned from colonies to sovereign nations until it was suspended in 1994. Since opening in 1952, the chamber was renovated in 1964 and 1978 to accommodate increases in the number of member states, but those modifications somewhat diluted Juhl’s original design.


Undertaking a reverent renovation  
The latest renovation, by Danish firm Salto & Sigsgaard, restored the chamber primarily to Juhl’s original design, with updates to suit its current purpose as a meeting hall for more than 600 people. In 2011, Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard, partners in the eponymous Copenhagen-based design firm, were selected as the winners of a competition sponsored by the U.N. and the Danish Arts Foundation for the chamber renovation, to which Denmark committed $3.3 million. “We debated how Finn Juhl would have approached the project—blending in with or departing from the existing design,” Salto says. The design by Salto & Sigsgaard pays homage to the original, with accents of bold color in a space where wood dominates, and comfort and convenience are paramount. They sought to restore as much of the original design as possible, aided by the Designmuseum Danmark, which had preserved all of Juhl’s drawings and sample boards. A surprise discovery was made in the renovation process: Two original sconces, from a set of 11 designed by Juhl, which went missing during the last renovation, were found stashed in a space under the chamber’s gallery. “Our motto was to add as few new elements as possible and to really respect the use of wood in the room,” Salto says. The wall paneling and the wood spindles suspended from the ceiling, all made of olive ash wood, were restored. Inserted between the ceiling's slats are the original colorful boxes—which Juhl believed created the impression of greater height in the low-ceiling room—housing the lighting and ventilation units. Echoing the ceiling’s punches of color, a striped carpet is a faithful replica of Juhl’s design, as is the return to his horseshoe-shape seating arrangement, an egalitarian approach demonstrating that all the members are on the same level.

New furnishings echo originals

Curved, oak delegate tables—designed by Salto & Saarsgaard with a simple upside-down L-shape in profile—define the chamber’s seating configuration. Chartreuse leather seats for assistants are placed in rows directly behind the delegates’ armchairs. At the tables, the armchairs—produced by Danish manufacturer Onecollection, which holds the rights to Juhl’s furniture—are modified versions of Juhl’s original blue FJ51 delegate chairs. The new FJ51 has a slightly narrower seat and armrest to accommodate the chamber’s increased capacity, and is made of oak rather than the original ash. “The ash available today is very light in color [compared to what was available 60 years ago], so for better color match we selected oak for the new furniture,” Sigsgaard says.The designers also put their mark on the chamber with their own newly designed Council Chair, produced by Onecollection with an oak veneer and leather, surrounding a new secretariat table. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark unveiled the completed chamber renovation in April—to unanimous approval. No doubt Juhl himself would have been pleased.  


Key Design Highlights

  • The renovation revives wood details and colorful accents that   were part of Juhl’s original vision.
  • An appearance of equality returns with the restoration 
of the chamber’s horseshoe 
configuration.
  • A modified version of Juhl’s 
FJ51 chair accomodates the 
chamber’s increased capacity.
  • Salto & Sigsgaard designed 
a new Council Chair and 
secretariat tables that 
complement the midcentury modern interior.

 


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