The design of the Security Council Chamber
If the walls of the Security Council Chamber could speak, they would have some fascinating stories to tell. At the best of times, nations have united for our common future in this very room.
When the UN headquarters were built, Norway was given the honour of designing the Chamber. The Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg envisioned a room that invoked not only the noble aspirations of the UN Charter, but also Norway’s identity and culture. To this day, the Chamber bears the stamp of Norwegian art, craftsmanship and values.
The room is designed to promote fair and open dialogue – as a ‘workshop for peace’. One of the most recognisable elements is the grand horse-shoe table, which enables all delegates to face one another. It signifies the importance of equality and dialogue among nations in our common pursuit of peace – reflecting an enduring Norwegian approach to conflict solving. Together with partner countries all over the world, Norway has provided a space where the parties to a conflict can sit and discuss cooperation to resolve shared problems.
The Chamber’s striking mural of a phoenix rising from a world in ashes, by painter Per Krogh, represents our common efforts to emerge from a dark past of war to a better life. Or, in the artist’s own words: ‘The essence of the idea is to give an impression of light, security and joy’. At the heart of the UN Charter we find the same vision – of a world that will unite to maintain international peace and security.
Another prominent feature of the Chamber is the iconic blue and gold wall tapestry – created by the important Norwegian textile artist Else Poulsson. Her concept incorporates the anchor of faith, the growing wheat of hope and the heart of charity – enduring symbols of values that are needed just as much today as they were 75 years ago.
The French artist Henry Matisse once said ‘creativity takes courage’. This can apply to international cooperation as well as to art. Open dialogue cannot be conducted in a vacuum — nor meaning conveyed by an empty canvas.
The Chamber remains a symbol of commitment to diversity and to dialogue, and Norway takes great pride in contributing to the work taking place in this room. When nations unite, they can dismantle any obstacle to peaceful co-existence.
It is my hope that this unique digital exhibit will shed light on the history and inspiration behind the Security Council Chamber. Let it remind us all of the ideals we must continue to work towards for our common future – in the ‘the most important room in the world’.