Dezeen Magazine

The Best Weapon bench at Nobel Peace Centre by Snohetta

Snøhetta designs bench for Nobel Peace Centre that brings people together

A bench designed by architecture firm Snøhetta for the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo is shaped like a partial circle to encourage people to sit closer together and start conversations.

The project is described as a "peace bench" and is titled The Best Weapon, in reference to Nelson Mandela's famous quote, "The best weapon is to sit down and talk".

The six-and-a-half-metre long bench is made from anodised aluminium that was bead blasted and pre-distressed to create a robust surface that will withstand constant use. Nelson Mandela's inspirational quote is engraved into the metal.

Bench will be unveiled at UN headquarters

Snøhetta collaborated with Norwegian outdoor furniture producer Vestre and aluminium specialist Hydro to develop the installation.

It will be unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City this Thursday on Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July.

The bench will remain at the Headquarters' plaza through September before being transferred to its permanent location near Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually.

Design encourages users to start conversations

The form of the bench represents a section of a circle that touches the ground at its lowest point. The gentle curve of the seat encourages users to sit closer together and creates a setting for conversation.

The Best Weapon bench at Nobel Peace Centre by Snohetta

"In today's digitalised and polarised society, sitting down and speaking together might be the most effective tool that we have to find solutions and common ground," said Snøhetta founder, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen.

"We believe in using design as a tool to create lasting symbols that foster fruitful communication."

The installation is intended as a symbol of diplomacy and dialogue that pays tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize laureates and celebrates their efforts to unite people and resolve conflict across the world.

Communicates the value of peace

It balances its function as a piece of public furniture with its mission to communicate the values of the Nobel Peace Center as a symbol for discourse and peace.

"We hope that the bench will encourage people to sit down and talk – to their friends, but also to strangers and adversaries," claimed executive director of the Nobel Peace Center, Liv Tørres, adding, "Genuine conversations are requirements for peace."

Snøhetta was founded in 1989 by Norwegian architect Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and American architect Craig Dykers.

The firm is best known for its innovative architecture projects such as an underwater restaurant in a remote Norwegian village and a public library in Calgary, Canada, featuring a dramatic wood-lined atrium.

Snøhetta also regularly works on interiors, furniture and objects, such as the latest Norwegian banknotes and a chair made from recycled plastic and steel taken from fish farms.

Photography is by Lars Tornøe.