The Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway, has commissioned a new art piece. Designed by Snøhetta and created in partnership with collaborators Hydro and Vestre, the “peace bench”, entitled The Best Weapon, will be first unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on Nelson Mandela Day, July 18th. The installation 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.
As a symbol of diplomacy and dialogue, the installation 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.
“In today’s digitalized and polarized society, sitting down and speaking together might be the most effective tool that we have to find solutions and common ground. We believe in using design as a tool to create lasting symbols that foster fruitful communication,” says Snøhetta founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen.
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. “We hope that the bench will encourage people to sit down and talk – to their friends, but also to strangers and adversaries. Genuine conversations are requirements for peace,” says Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Center, Liv Tørres.
The Best Weapon balances a duality of messages, both as a functional piece that invites conversation and social intimacy, as well as a resilient symbol that anchors the Peace Center’s mission 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.