The United Nations exists and survives thanks to the proportional contributions of all 193 member states. Thanks to the donation of Qatar, Room XIX of the UN in Geneva has been completely renovated in a project by the architecture firm PEIA. 800 seats, 320 with desks for the delegates, plus the same number for their assistants, observers and the press, making this assembly hall of 4000 square meters the largest space with the most advanced technologies of the UN.
The architectural design reflects the ideals of the United Nations through concentric, radial design, embodying the concept of equality. Rather than many rows with different radii, a single module for each member has been designed for grouping with others, to promote the individuality and identity of nations while expressing the strength of unity, with the aim of solving the problems of the world
The key characteristics of this space are its large seating capacity, accessibility for the disabled, ten cabinets for simultaneous translation including sign language, and new standards of organizational inclusivity.
A lighting system has been installed to maximize comfort during assemblies. Using circadian systems, the hall features lighting scenarios that imitate outdoor daylight conditions, enhancing the sculptural effect of the ceiling. To add another source of comfortable lighting, an automated motorized opening system offers a view of the park, Lake Geneva and the majestic massif of Mont Blanc.
The space has also been designed for excellent acoustic performance: with the help of parametric software, the form and array of 7000 slim panels in wood composite are controlled to permit management of high and low frequencies in the dynamic wooden structure of the ceiling and the walls, covering the original surfaces. The panels generate ‘waves’ that change form based on the differentiation of acoustics in the circular space, while also conveying a symbolic meaning that alludes to the efforts of the UN to promote and facilitate pacific diplomatic solutions.
The redesign of the chairs pays tribute to the work of Charlotte Perriand, who collaborated on the design of Building E in the 1960s and 1970s. Perriand was the assistant of Le Corbusier, the master of the Modern Movement who with Oscar Niemeyer was part of the team of designers of the United Nations building in New York (1948-52).
The new chairs and furnishings represent a specific project of extreme complexity, due to the ergonomic requirements, the need to save space in tune with functional planning, and the question of honing security and evacuation strategies. The project also responds to issues of comfort during long sessions, flexibility and accessibility for the disabled, also with the possibility of removing any seats in a few seconds for replacement by a wheelchair. The toxic materials in the original pieces were another factor that made it necessary to replace the furnishings.
About thirty of the original chairs designed by Perriand, restored and with the harmful substances removed, are now utilized for visitors and school groups on hand to observe the assemblies of the UN from the mezzanine level.