Arnstein Arneberg. United Nations Security Council Chamber


Norwegian architecture is on the spot in many different places all over the world. The most representative case is the United Nations Security Council chamber, but the majority of people haven’t heard that it is an important historic piece of Norwegian design. The UN-Headquarters in New York built from 1949 till 1951 consist of three buildings: The General Assembly Building, Conference Building and the Secretariat Building. The flat Conference Building in front of the 39-storey high pile next to the riverside creates the surrounding for the halls of security, trusteeship and economic and social councils. The development of the design for these three chambers was given to Scandinavia, Norway was responsible for the UN Security Council chamber, while Sweden and Denmark were liable for the two others.


The main reason giving the commission to create the chambers to Scandinavia was to reduce the UN’s expenses. The budget of the UN for the Security Council chamber was about $ 120 000, the additional charge of $ 15 000 was contributed by the state of Norway. This engagement was a symbol of the important political and diplomatic position during the foundation phase of the United Nations. These times the Scandinavian countries were already well known for their quality of design and architecture. The first Secretary General, Trygve Halvdan Lie, was Norwegian, what also may have benefited the placing of that order to Norway.

Buildings coloured 1

The architect in charge of the interior design of the Security Council chamber was Arnstein Arneberg (1882-1961), who had already designed the city hall of Oslo in 1930s. For the proposal of the UN chamber he designed a conference room with two sections with many integrated symbols and metaphors.

Floor plan coloured The main object is the conference table in the stage area for the delegates of the member states. It is circular with an opening on the audience-faced side and surrounded by three rows of blue-colored chairs for the delegates and associates. Furthermore in this area there are seats with red upholstery for the UN members, which are not part of the council. The public area behind consists of a press zone in the front rows with 120 seats and an audience zone of 400 chairs. Each zone has its own access.


The walls are covered by patterned satin damask with a base of marble. The fabric of the wall covering, which has a blue background with a yellow pattern on it, was designed by Else Poulsson and made in Norway. The yellow pattern consists of corn, hearts and anchors, standing for hope, charity and faith, which mirror the main beliefs of the United Nations. The side walls have windows in the upper front part for the rooms of the interpreters. The front wall is made glass but covered by curtains made of the same fabric as the wall lining. A few meters in front of the glass façade is a big wall panel situated, which carries a five by nine meters canvas painting of Per Krohg. It shows the change from a world in war and destruction into peace and includes many symbols like the phoenix in the center of the mural, which arises from its own ashes.


The chairs around the table were designed by Finn Nilsson and made in Norway by the master cabinetmaker Johan Fr. Monrad, manufactured from elm and mahogany. The different colors of upholstery show the belonging to the different groups of actors. The blue seats of the delegates mirror the official color of the United Nations emblem.

In summary it can be said, therefore, that the composition is a great piece of Norwegian artwork and that the Norwegian culture as well as Norway is well embedded in the international context.


by Nadine Schmauser | Robert Blödorn