The Palais des Nations in Geneva has a new Hall (and a very ‘Italian’ one)


GENEVA, NOVEMBER 13- From one glass window you see the Lake of Geneva, from the other the peaks of Mont Blanc. This view was chosen not only for its immense beauty, but also to remind the delegates -in light of the climate crisis- of the urgency of the challenges that await them. Four thousand square meters, 800 seats at around twenty million dollars of investments: the XIX Hall of the Palais des Nations was inaugurated yesterday by Tatiana Valovaya, Director General of the United Nations Office of Geneva. The Hall’s renovation was designed by Italian architect Giampiero Peia and executed by the Italian firm CCM. Other Italian companies provided furniture and materials: Matteo Grassi for the chairs, Casalgrande Padana for the ceramic coating, Wood-Skin for the wood coating and Flos for lighting.

Peia, who designed the Coca-Cola Pavilion for Expo 2015 in Milan, is the first Italian to have been asked to design an assembly hall for the United Nations. The architect, who has an office in Milan and one in Doha, identified and interpreted -in a modern key- the aesthetic codes of the Qatari culture. The project is therefore representative of a culture that presents itself in a global scenario by multiplying and re-interpreting the value of tradition, of culture, of calligraphy and landscape through the use of contemporary materials and technologies. In the vaulter ceiling is a reference to the image of the desert dune: symbol of Qatar but also of the environment that must be preserved. The Qatar Hall is an emblem of Italian creativity as well, a space where common values of the past and visions of the future meet, combining aesthetics, technological innovation, design, ergonomics, accessibility and sustainability.

The hall, a model for future renovation projects, is the largest assembly space of the whole United Nations. Called ‘Multilateralism Hall’ or Qatar Hall as it was built thanks the financing of the Qatari government, the hall is equipped with the best audio and video systems available on the market, which guarantee the highest technological level of communication and live broadcasting. The architectural project -through its concentric and radial design- is reflective of the ideal of the United Nations: equality. It also expresses the individuality and identity of the United Nations, and its strong union as a single entity committed to solving the problems of the world.

Considerable attention was put in the planning and realization of the lighting system, which utilizes a circadian light cycle (imitating of the rising and setting of the sun) allowing for the use of natural light through a system of automatic and motorized openings. Thanks to the motorized, high-definition cameras, whoever begins a speech can be immediately put into frame. A further unique innovation concerns the interpreters’ booths, ten in total, where for the first time of the history of the United Nations a transmission system for sign language interpreters was installed.

The seatings pay homage to Charlotte Perriand, the assistant of Le Corbusier who, with Oscar Niemeyer, designed the Headquarters of New York. The Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris is dedicating (until February 2020) a wide retrospective to Charlotte Perriand, in light of twenty years since her death. The Perriand seatings had to be changed for numerous reasons: new security rules, confort for longer sessions, flexibility and accessibility (the new design can be removed in a few seconds to accomodate wheelchairs), and above all the presence inside of toxic materials. Forty Perriand seatings still remain: restored and decontaminated, have been moved in the Hall mezzanine for the benefit of visitors and as a testimony of the original Hall XIX. (SB@OnuItalia)