The UN building in New York is undergoing a major renovation and will re-open in the spring of 2013. Denmark is responsible for the restoration of the Trusteeship Council Chamber, designed by iconic Danish architect and designer Finn Juhl.
Rendering of the restored Trusteeship Council Chamber with new furniture designed by Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard (photo: Salto & Sigsgaard) From 2010 - 2013, Denmark is engaged in a grand-scale design project at the UN, highlighting one of the great icons of Danish design history, Finn Juhl, as well as contemporary Danish design.
The Trusteeship Council Chamber in the UN Conference Building, a longstanding icon of mid-century modern design by Finn Juhl, is being completely restored and refurbished. Designer duo Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard have been chosen for the commission to design the furniture for the restored Chamber. Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard, were awarded the winning prize by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II at a major event in New York in the summer of 2011. Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard, were awarded the winning prize by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II at a major event in New York in the summer of 2011.Watch a presentation of the UN restoration project by Anthony Cohn, EYP Architects
Living the Legacy, Designing the FutureDenmark’s wish is that the finished chamber will be not only a model example of Danish design tradition, but also showcase the best of contemporary Danish design. In collaboration with the Danish Agency for Culture, The Consulate General of Denmark in New York has therefore launched the design effort “Living the Legacy – Designing the Future,” highlighting both the heritage and the contemporary designers inspired by it. Among the events held in New York was "Danish Design Review" at Parsons The New School for Design in the fall of 2012.
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The history In 1950, Finn Juhl was given a very special commission. The Danish furniture designer was asked to furnish one of the council chambers in the Conference Building at the United Nations Headquarters Complex, which was under construction in New York.
The UN’s first secretary general, Norway’s Trygve Lie, had asked Norway to furnish the Security Council Chamber, while Sweden was given the Economic and Social Council Chamber, and Denmark the Trusteeship Council Chamber, dedicated to The Trusteeship Council, whose task was to oversee the decolonization process.
When the Trusteeship Council Chamber was inaugurated in 1952, it was obvious that Juhl had done a brilliant job of carrying out the commission. He had created a total work of art, in which every detail, every color, and every piece of furniture merged into a consistent whole.
When the Trusteeship Council ceased to function in 1994, the chamber became a multi-purpose meeting space and one of the most used chambers in the UN. Meetings, concerts and other events take place here and the chamber is visited by more than 400.000 tourists a year.
The constant use took its toll, however, and the room was remodeled in 1964 and 1977 to accommodate the growing number of UN member countries.
When the UN was faced with the total renovation of the entire complex in 2007, a unique opportunity arose to recreate the Trusteeship Council Chamber in Finn Juhl’s spirit.
New designs in the roomThe Trusteeship Council ceased to function in 1994, and its chamber is used today for many more meetings and activities of different kinds than in Finn Juhl’s days. This is why new furniture had to be created for it.
The Danish Arts Foundation announced a design competition in 2011 for new tables for the delegates and a chair for the secretariat. The competition was won by two of Denmark’s leading designers – Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard.
The jury considered their winning proposal to be both classical and innovative, just as Juhl’s own design had been in 1952. Its chairman, Mogens A. Morgen, noted, “The winning proposal by Salto and Sigsgaard is a beautiful combination of design and architecture that encompasses both the room and the detail.”
The new pieces are coherent, contemporary exponents of Danish furniture design, but do not seem overpowering in the company of Finn Juhl’s classical creations.
Recreating Finn Juhl’s interiorIn addition to modernizing the room with new furniture, the restoration project has recreated the original interior in keeping with the ideas and design principles that characterized Finn Juhl’s work. The sunken floor in front of the podium was recreated, as was the horseshoe configuration of tables and chairs.
Both elements had been important to Finn Juhl because he felt it was a fundamental principle for democracy and the UN for participants to be able to talk face to face. Juhl’s FJ51 chair was also reintroduced in a modified version, and all the room’s permanent fixtures were meticulously restored.
This work was only possible because Designmuseum Danmark (Denmark’s national museum of decorative art) had preserved all of Juhl’s original drawings and the sample board with color codes and fabric swatches that he had compiled especially for the project.
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