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As one of four candidates, I was asked to work on a proposal for the United Nations Economic and Social Council chamber. The task was to come up with an idea for replacing a large curtain, hung to block sight of the delegates while they are inside of the large assembly hall, shielding them from view towards the East River – as a safety measure.
The United Nations building in New York was designed by Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer. Completed in 1953, the building’s glass facade communicates openness and clarity, which could be fittingly extended to also include the task of those working for the United Nations and to the peace process itself.
My proposal makes a connection between the peace process – which is dependent on time, growing wisdom and constant motion – with a proposal that poetically cites this process. Instead of thinking in terms of a static, mostly decorative solution, I wanted to address time and distance as elements necessary in understanding our human condition, along with light as a constant reminder of what lay just outside of the chamber: the rest of the world. The proposal for the chamber is based on watching a Polaroid photograph slowly develop. But the “image” would in this case gradually appear over the course of a couple of decades. Instead of using a photographic process, I proposed to create a screen woven from a combination of silver fiber and real silver thread. I devised a way to use silver and its natural oxidization properties as it come into contact with the oxygen in the air. In this oxidizing process, silver changes color from white to black as it tarnishes and, depending on the amount of sulfur in the air, this process takes between 15-20 years.
The image that would “develop” on the screen over the years, is a photo of a view of the East River and Brooklyn that was taken in the present moment from the viewpoint of the delegates in the chamber. To put it another way, or more poetically, the image of today would be viewed as part of the past. It would be like the light
seen from a distant star – when the light finally reaches us it tells us of an existence that has already passed. The screen would start out as a pure silver surface, reflecting light into the chamber and suggesting that light is pushing through the screen from the outside, forming the image. It takes time and distance to see our own time, and when we finally can understand it, it will have become a part of history.
Commission; Proposal for invited competition
ECOSOC Chamber, UN Building, New York City