Take a look inside the UAE-funded $22m renovated UN conference hall in Geneva

After two years of design and project management, two renowned architects, Siavosh Adeli, from Lausanne, and Joakim de Rham, based in Dubai, have completed the project “La Salle des Emirats”, the fully renovated Conference Room XVII of the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations.

The UAE-funded renovation work of Conference Hall 17 commenced in July 2015 and was completed in May 2016, for the total cost of $22m. The spectacular ceiling of the renovated “Salle des Emirats”, which weighs 20 tons, now contains a round metallic structure showing the name of the United Arab Emirates written in stylised Arabic calligraphy.

Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his recent welcoming remarks, said that “La Salle des Emirats” combines functionality, cutting-edge technology and a design that merges innovation and cultural heritage, very much in line with the spectacular architectural trends that have emerged in the United Arab Emirates over the past years.

“Room XVII does not only shine in a new design, but also has technical features that will ultimately help delegates focus on finding solutions – under the blue Emirates sky – to the world’s problems that are being addressed here in Geneva,” said Møller.

Conference Room XVII, situated in Building E and built in the early 1970s, had become dilapidated over time.  No longer serving the modern conference needs of the twenty-first century, the room had warranted a complete renovation.  In autumn 2014, Møller and Obaid Salem Saeed Al Zaabi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations Office at Geneva, signed an agreement on the renovation of the room, to be fully financed by the United Arab Emirates.

Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates Alshamsi said that “the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to provide appropriate working tools to the United Nations System is in line with its constant support to international organizations and it aims at strengthening the role of the United Nations as a Forum for  the international community in order to achieve its objectives and aspirations.”

“The Emirati sky from dawn to dusk”, inside Conference Room XVII is the present offered by  the United Arab Emirates to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva,” said Joakim de Rham, Dubai-based architect. “The genesis of the project stems from the emblem of the United Arab Emirates, a golden falcon upholding the Emirates’ flag surrounded by seven stars representing the seven Emirates of the Federation.”

At the foot of the falcon, the name of the United Arab Emirates is inscribed in Kufic script.

De Rhams further explains: “In the project, the name of the United Arab Emirates transforms itself into a rounded metallic architectural structure while still preserving the traditional and cultural values of Arabic calligraphy. The structure is also linked to a live sky in LED screens which symbolises the vision of the UAE. The endless, limitless, interminable sky represents the futuristic and innovative vision of the country.”

The walls of the room are made of wood panels, which by their curved shapes are a subtle representation of the wind in the dunes.

The carpeting reproduces the orange hues that characterise the unique colors of the sand of the desert of Abu Dhabi.

The Palais, home to the United Nations Office at Geneva, should also undergo a complete renovation with the implementation of the Strategic Heritage Plan which is presently in its planning phase.  Building code compliance and greater accessibility for persons with disabilities are among the key objectives of the project, which also foresees the construction of a new building.  Restoration and construction works will begin in 2017 and are expected to conclude by 2023.

Photos: UAE Permanent Mission, UN Photo, Swiss Bureau