“Peace bench” as a symbol of diplomacy and dialogue to be unveiled at UN headquarters

Following a commission to design a “tool for dialogue,” design firm Snøhetta, aluminum supplier Hydro and Vestre have joined forces to create a “peace bench” for the Nobel Peace Center, titled The Best Weapon. To be unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on Nelson Mandela Day, July 18th.

(Illustrasjon: Lars Tornøe)

As a symbol of diplomacy and dialogue, the peace bench pays tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize laureates and their efforts to bring people together to find effective solutions for peace. Designed as a partial circle that meets the ground at its lowest point, the gentle arc of the bench pulls those sitting on it closer together. The installation’s singular design gesture embodies an invitation to conversation. Engraved on its surface is Nelson Mandela’s famous quote, “The best weapon is to sit down and talk”, from which the piece derives its name.

“Trust and understanding between people occurs when we meet and get to know each other. That is why creating social meeting places where people come together across age and background is so important to us. Some may think it’s a little naive to believe that a bench can change the world, but we have seen it work – time and time again.», says Jan Christian Vestre, CEO of Vestre.

The piece manifests the values of the Nobel Peace Center and pays tribute to the humane ideals of Nelson Mandela – ideals of compromise, of dialogue and compassion. (Credit: Lars Tornøe)

The Best Weapon balances a duality of messages, as a functional piece that invites conversation and social intimacy, as well as anchoring the Peace Center’s mission as a resilient symbol for discourse and peace. The six and a half meter-long installation is made from anodized aluminum from Hydro. Bead-blasted and pre-distressed, the sturdy material will ensure the bench’s longevity, promoting diplomacy and dialogue for many years to come.

The installation was designed by Snøhetta. Materials were supplied by Hydro, and final construction of the piece was completed by Vestre. The three companies bring to this project a rich history of past collaborations for social design in the public realm, including Snøhetta and Vestre’s collaboration to design the furniture for Snøhetta’s redesign of Times Square.

The peace bench will remain at the Headquarters’ plaza through September, when the plan is to transfer it to Oslo and a permanent location near the Nobel Peace Center and the Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually.