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‘The Best Weapon’ unveiled at the UN on Nelson Mandela Day

The “Peace Bench”, designed as a symbol of dialogue and peace, was unveiled Thursday, July 18, during the high-level political forum on sustainable development at the United Nations (UN) in New York.

Illustration of the 'Peace Bench' which will be unveiled at the UN in New York this summer.
Illustration of the 'Peace Bench' which will be unveiled at the UN in New York this summer. (Credit: Lars Tornøe)

Following a commission to create a “tool for dialogue,” Hydro joined forces with design firm Snøhetta and furniture maker Vestre to create an interactive installation in aluminium for the Nobel Peace Center.

Engraved on the bench is Mandela's quote;

Mandela’s famous quote, from which the installation derives its name, is engraved into the aluminium surface of the bench. Standing as a symbol of diplomacy and dialogue, the bench is a tangible tribute to the legacy of Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize, and efforts to find effective solutions for peace.

“We are very proud to participate in such a meaningful project, especially here at the UN on Nelson Mandela Day. As a global industrial company, we believe that close dialogue is the foundation for viable business and sustainable operations within the communities where we operate, with our customers, and beyond.” says Inger Sethov , Executive Vice President of Communication and Public Affairs in Hydro, who participated in the event.

ribbon cutting ceremony

Dignitaries such as Norway’s permanent representative to the UN, Ms. Mona Juul and Minister of International Development, Mr. Dag Inge Ulstein as well as South Africa’s permanent representative to the UN, Mr. Jerry Matjila and Minister of Tourism, Ms. Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, took part in the unveiling ceremony alongside Liv Tørres, CEO of the Nobel Peace Center and representatives from Hydro, Snøhetta, and Vestre.

The installation will remain at the UN through September, after which it will travel to Oslo and its permanent location near the Nobel Peace Center and Oslo’s City Hall, home of the annual Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. 

Following Snøhetta and Vestre’s longtime commitment to social design in public spaces, the project aims to be a tool to bring about social change. Designed as a semi-circle that meets the ground at its lowest point, the gentle arc allows gravity to pull those sitting on it closer together. The installation’s simple gesture invites its users into dialogue.  The robust aluminium structure will ensure the bench’s longevity, promoting diplomacy and dialogue for many years to come.

About the Peace Bench

  • The Peace Bench is commissioned by the Nobel Peace Center, designed by Snøhetta and constructed by Vestre. Hydro has provided the aluminum. It is supported by the Norwegian government.   
  • The Peace Bench will initially be placed in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where it will be unveiled on Nelson Mandela Day, July 18, 2019.   
  • At the end of September 2019, the plan is to bring the bench to Oslo.  
  • The bench is 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 simple design gesture embodies an invitation to conversation.  
  • The installation is made of aluminum from Hydro – a robust and durable material that will ensure the Peace Bench can host conversations for generations to come. 

About the partners Snøhetta, Hydro and Vestre

The peace bench, titled The Best Weapon, was designed by Snøhetta. The aluminium was provided by Hydro, and final construction of the piece was completed by Vestre. Snøhetta, Hydro, Vestre and the Nobel Peace Center have origins in Norway, which makes the collaboration a natural one. 

The three companies bring to this project a rich history of past collaborations for social design in public spaces, including Snøhetta and Vestre’s collaboration to design the furniture for Snøhetta’s redesign of Times Square, and Snøhetta’s work on re-imagining Hydro’s visual identity.  

  • Hydro (Norsk Hydro ASA) is a fully integrated aluminum company with operations all over the world. Present in all parts of the value chain, from bauxite and alumina to rolled and extruded products and recycling, Hydro is the only 360-degree company of the global aluminum industry, serving more than 30,000 customers worldwide. 
  • Vestre is a leading manufacturer of sustainable furniture for cities, parks and other outdoor spaces. For more than 70 years Vestre has helped create democratic meeting places around the world where people of different social, cultural and financial identities can come together. This includes Times Square in New York, Aker Brygge in Oslo and Kings Cross in London. 
  • Snøhetta is an international integrated architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture, product design and graphic design firm. For 30 years, Snøhetta has designed some of the world’s most notable public and cultural projects. In 2018, Snøhetta designed Arch for Arch, a commemorative arch in Cape Town, South Africa, dedicated to the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 


Community engagement and stakeholder dialogue

In Hydro we are committed to dialogue with our local communities where we operate and other stakeholders. This helps us understand what is expected of us, what is important to our stakeholders and how we can solve common challenges. Read more about our work here

Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In Hydro we strive to make a positive difference by strengthening our local communities and our business partners. While we report on all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, we have aligned our strategy to three of them. Read more about our work here

The Design process with Snøhetta

We always start our design process through dialogue. Through dialogue with our collaborators and internally in our project teams, we work to define what potential each project realistically has based on market opportunity, research and exploration. Read the interview with Marius Myking Director of Product Design, Snøhetta here

Ina Strander John

Ina Strander John

Communication Manager

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