Snøhetta has created a simple arc-shaped urban bench to be a symbol of diplomacy and dialogue for the UN Headquarters Plaza in New York City. Dubbed ‘The Best Weapon’, the piece was commissioned by the Nobel Peace Center and the installation borrowed its name from Nelson Mandela’s historic quote, “The best weapon is to sit down and talk.”
Image © NorwayUN/Johannes W. Berg
The installation pays tribute to past Nobel Peace Prize laureates and their efforts to bring people together to find effective solutions for peace. The Best Weapon manifests the values of the Nobel Peace Center and pays “homage to Nelson Mandela’s humane ideals of compromise, dialogue and compassion”.
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, subsequently and subtly encouraging dialogue.
The Best Weapon delivers a message of peace and conflict resolution, both as a functional piece that encourages conversation and social intimacy, and as a resilient symbol that anchors the Peace Center’s mission for discourse and peace.
“The foremost precondition for peace is bringing people together. We believe in using design as a tool to create lasting symbols that foster fruitful communication,” said Snøhetta founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen.
Image © Kjetil Ska°rdal Andersen
Situated next to ‘the knotted gun’
The installation is situated at the main entry to the UN Headquarters Plaza, next to the famous Non-Violence sculpture – an oversized Colt revolver cast in bronze, with a knotted barrel and the muzzle pointing upwards.
The sculpture, popularly known as “the knotted gun” was created in 1993 by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd as a response to the murder of singer-songwriter and peace activist John Lennon. Since then, the knotted gun has become a global symbol of non-violence. Sited in such a prominent location both symbolically and physically, The Best Weapon takes on multiple valences through this dialogue with its neighbour.
The six-and-a-half metre-long installation is made from anodized aluminum from Hydro – the piece was realised in partnership with Hydro and Vestre. Materials were supplied by Hydro, and final construction of the piece was completed by Vestre.
The aluminum is the world’s greenest with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than the industry average. In addition to creating a beautiful surface, the anodized finish of the bench has high corrosion resistance and protection against scratching.
The installation is produced by Vestre in a completely carbon-neutral process. Bead-blasted and pre-distressed, the sturdy material will ensure the bench’s longevity, promoting diplomacy and dialogue for many years to come.