The 10-Year Anniversary of the Re-inauguration of the Finn Juhl Chamber at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York

On April 25th, 2013, the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York was inaugurated after a thorough renovation. The chamber, which was designed by Finn Juhl, was originally inaugurated in 1952 and is often referred to as the Finn Juhl Chamber. Both the relaunch of the original Delegates Chair, FJ 51, designed by Finn Juhl, and the modern secretariat chairs and tables, designed by Kasper Salto & Thomas Sigsgaard, were developed, and manufactured by House of Finn Juhl – Onecollection.

Today, the UN chamber is considered a masterpiece in Finn Juhl’s career, and the chamber stands as a Danish design and architectural gem. Below we dive into the most prestigious project in the history of the company.

A Danish Cultural Treasure at the United Nations

When the United Nations headquarters was built over 70 years ago, the Trusteeship Council Chamber was Denmark’s contribution to the completion of the UN building. It was the young architect Finn Juhl who was given the prestigious task of designing the interior. He created a historic design that truly manifested Denmark as a design nation, and the chamber became an important milestone in the spread of the international concept of Danish Modern.

Finn Juhl intended to create a “Gesamtkunstwerk” – a comprehensive art form where each design element complements the others to create a functional and aesthetic whole. The chamber is a beautiful and important testimony to Danish cultural heritage.

House of Finn Juhl – Onecollection also produced and delivered Finn Juhl’s modern successor: Salto & Sigsgaard’s chair named ‘The Council Chair’ as well as new custom-made tables, also designed by Salto & Sigsgaard, in a completely new layout for the chamber.

It is the design duo, Salto & Sigsgaard, consisting of architect Thomas Sigsgaard and designer Kasper Salto, who managed to capture the spirit of the chamber and elegantly bring Finn Juhl’s legacy into the 21st century with their sculptural Council Chair. In 2011, they won the Danish Ministry of Culture’s design competition to design new secretariat chairs and tables for the chamber. The shells on the seat and back are made of formpressed 3D veneer. Inside, the tight padding in natural leather perfectly fits the body of the chair. The elegant swivel base is cast in aluminum.

Today, Hans Henrik Sørensen, co-founder of House of Finn Juhl – Onecollection, tells about the project:

“Looking back, it was enormously challenging to develop Salto & Sigsgaard’s demanding and boundary-pushing furniture at the same time as we had to navigate through a maze of institutions and stakeholders in both the UN, USA, and Denmark. The fact that the chamber has been in use for 10 years – and that everything succeeded without error, is almost

incomprehensible. Together with the designers, we constantly moved outside of the comfort zone, on the edge of what was possible, and sought special skills from afar. Despite frustrations along the way, the project also manifested a fun and fruitful collaboration with Salto & Sigsgaard, which has since resulted in many interesting and high-profile tasks. Everything could have gone wrong, but we succeeded together and recreated one of the world’s most important meeting chambers in the most beautiful way in Finn Juhl’s spirit.”

Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard tell about the chair:

“People ask us what is especially Danish about this chair. Apart from the light Nordic colour and our love of using wood, we also think it has to do with our approach: We put a lot of effort into assembling all possible influences of the assignment before giving it shape. By doing so, we had a good chance of making something useful and relevant. Besides that,

there is always a reason for what we do, and that often helps us in our discussions with the various teams we work with. For instance, we designed the secretaries’ chairs with armrests. At first the UN was hesitant to allocate chairs with armrests to employees with the status of secretary, and stated “how typical Scandinavian!”, but because we presented them with our intensions, we came to an agreement.”