SOM’s dramatic but welcoming mission to the UN
UAE’s SOM mission to UN concludes in New York, building on enduring principles and Middle Eastern traditions
The headquarters of the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations has just been completed in New York. Designed by leading architecture studio SOM, the building is the first such headquarters to launch in a decade, with the United Arab Emirates Mission to the UN joining Manhattan’s Turtle Bay neighborhood, home to classics. such as the icon of modernist architecture which is the headquarters of the United Nations (UN), completed in 1950 to a drawing by Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier.
The new structure of the United Arab Emirates mission to the UN has been specially designed for its diplomatic mandate. Occupying a narrow urban plot, it rises over ten floors, in harmony with the volumes of the district and the wider urban landscape. “Its architecture is designed to embrace the city – to harmonize with New York’s architectural past, while reflecting the identity of the United Arab Emirates and the traditions of Middle Eastern hospitality,” the architects explain.
Dramatic verticality defines the overall design, with a pattern of long, slender Indiana limestone fins highlighting it on the front façade cladding. A 75-foot-long frieze carved into limestone at ground level depicts a series of palm leaves, matching the abstract nature of the fins above. This sense of verticality, drama and uplifting spirit is also reflected inside, as visitors enter the main lobby and are greeted by a powerful double-height space, featuring a dark cascading staircase.
Beyond that, creating a space that was elegant and modern, but also welcoming, comfortable and warm was crucial, reflecting the traditions of the Middle East of hospitality to all. In addition to the striking lobby on the ground floor and the event spaces on the first three floors, the building includes offices for staff and senior managers. Principles drawn from the architecture of the United Arab Emirates region, such as the use of interior courtyards, are reinterpreted here in a contemporary way. SOM collaborated with Lebanese designer Nada Debs on furniture and furnishings.
A sustainable approach and a design that puts the well-being of the employees at the heart have played a key role in the development of the building, while its use of natural materials and its green roof terrace, as well as other eco-friendly measures. ‘environment, meant that the United Arab Emirates mission now hopes to achieve LEED Gold certification.
“There is a timelessness in its materiality, as well as a durability”, conclude the architects. “The permanence of the material will make the new United Arab Emirates Mission to the United Nations building a lasting architectural work that will serve the United Arab Emirates for decades to come.” §