SOM designs UAE diplomacy building with Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan

todayOctober 15, 2021


Architecture firm SOM has designed a limestone-clad building patterned with symbolic palm leaves for the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations in Manhattan.

The building represents the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) diplomacy to the United Nations (UN) and is located in Manhattan’s Turtle Bay neighbourhood, close to the UN headquarters.

Palm leaf motifs on UAE building
The building features palm leaf motifs

The Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations is an organisation set up by the UAE to champion the UN and is headed by ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh.

Indiana limestone, sourced from the same quarries that provided the facades for the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center, clads the diplomacy building.

Turtle Bay neighbourhood in Manhattan
It is located in Manhattan’s Turtle Bay, close to the UN headquarters

The 10-storey tower was designed to blend with the scale of the rest of the neighbourhood while also representing the UAE.

SOM added palm leaf motifs to the building’s canopy and entrance as an international symbol of peace.

UAE UN building facade
The facade’s tapering limestone piers echo narrowing palm leaves

As the tower rises, the facade’s vertical elements attenuate to cater to privacy and light-related needs within the building, which also echoes the narrowing spine of a palm leaf.

“The palm is represented by the tapering limestone piers extending skywards from the second floor to the roof,” SOM design partner Chris Cooper told Dezeen.

Interiors inside diplomacy building
Middle Eastern courtyards informed the building’s interiors

Visitors enter the building via a 40-foot-tall (13-metre) double-height hallway that was designed to echo a courtyard in a traditional Middle Eastern house.

“On the interior, the concept of hospitality blends Middle Eastern tradition with diplomatic decorum,” continued Cooper.

Neutral interiors by SOM
SOM designed the project to be symbolic of international exchange

“The space brings guests and staff together in an environment that is dignified, understated, and symbolic of international exchange.”

Split into three zones, the building’s first two storeys house the entry hall and event spaces, while floors three to six feature an amenity level and staff offices.

Staff offices
Office spaces are included in the building

Levels seven and eight are reserved for executive areas, and at the top portion of the building, there is a roof terrace with impressive views of the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza below and the East River beyond.

“The layout of each floor of the building is inspired by the principle of the central courtyard, with a central reception and gathering space that is accessible from the elevator lobby,” explained Cooper.

“These spaces choreograph the visitor’s progression through the building – heeding the hospitable nature of Middle Eastern culture.”

Throughout the building, interiors pay tribute to the Middle East. Conference rooms include a traditional geometric pattern known as mashrabiya, which features in every UAE diplomatic office around the world.

Lebanese designer Nada Debs created the interiors for the building’s entry hall with a palette of natural materials intended to evoke serenity, such as Northern Canadian limestone.

Neutral interiors in the diplomacy building
Neutral interiors are intended to reflect the diplomatic nature of the building

Amenity spaces were designed with flat-cut American walnut and Calacatta marble, while executive spaces house Majlis areas for entertaining guests.

“In designing the mission, we endeavored to integrate Middle Eastern and local motifs, symbolising the power and importance of cross-cultural exchange and rooting the building in New York City’s architectural traditions,” said Cooper.

Calacatta marble in SOM's building
Marble features in amenity spaces

SOM is an American firm founded by Louis Skidmore, Nathaniel Owings and John Merrill in 1939. The office was recently chosen to design a mass-timber Olympic village for the Milan 2026 Winter Olympics.

The photography and drawings are courtesy of SOM.

The post SOM designs UAE diplomacy building with Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan appeared first on Dezeen.

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