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Eyes literally and figuratively on the UN, Norway’s consulate in NY opens new space

Norwegian consulate

Photo: Laura Guerrero / Pass Blue
One of several common spaces in the new Norwegian consulate and mission to the United Nations in New York. The wood-slatted ceiling evokes a rustic Norwegian cottage, and most of the chairs are Norwegian designed. The “Extreme” chairs (the English translation) on the left were designed in 1972 and produced in the 1980s by Terje Ekstrom.

Victoria Hofmo, Brooklyn, N.Y.

On June 11, the Norwegian Consulate in New York had an unexpected type of party—a housewarming. Guests were greeted by the gracious Consul General Harriet Berg.

The Norwegian Consulate in New York was established in 1906, one year after Norway became an independent country. It is the oldest and largest Norwegian consulate in the United States. Its former office was at 38th Street off of Third Avenue, and its new digs are at 1 Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, a plaza fortuitously named after the U.N.’s second secretary general, who hailed from Sweden. Although the new location is near the consulate’s former home, the vibe and purpose of the new space is vastly different.

Your eyes are first drawn to the floor-to-ceiling walls of glass. As you scan the room, the U.N. headquarters looms from the southeast corner. You step farther in and encounter a large sculpture dangling from the ceiling, composed of wooden planks that sway, meeting you nearly face to face, a Norwegian forest softening this glass and concrete space.

Norwegian consulate

Photo: Laura Guerrero / Pass Blue
The chair upholstery repeats a decorative motif found in the tapestry of the U.N. Security Council Chamber, the design of which Norway helped finance. The carpet signifies the lichen and stone that abound in the country’s mountains.

But that’s not the only interesting piece of art and design in this new office. Rosemaling rugs grace the floor. An iridescent textile woven with metal threads coos when you wave your hand in front of it. Probably most surprising are the chirping birds that serenade you in the restroom, a startling, whimsical surprise if you are unaware. The idea is to create a sense of calm, to bring the Norwegian landscape into this workspace. By grafting a Nordic home onto this dense urban environment, the designers have created an interesting juxtaposition of nature encroaching in the best way possible into our modern lives.

The space is vast and mostly open. There are some cubicles, but they are encased in glass, so all is revealed. There are amazing tables and chairs within and outside these cubicles, encouraging intimate discussions. The furniture ranges from soft twisted pretzels forms to mid-century Scandinavian style and a more classic corner. In the latter, striking chairs upholstered in a slate blue pattern feature symbolic golden symbols that I found familiar. I recognized the upholstery’s pattern from a brochure about the Norwegian Room, which serves as the U.N.’s Security Council Chamber and was designed by Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg.

This specifically appointed space was chosen as the Norwegian Consulate’s new home for another reason. Norway is hoping to get a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Even with all of Norway’s connections to the U.N., as well as its generous financial support, it is not a done deal. Norway is competing against Canada and Ireland for this seat. The vote takes place in 2020.

One guest at the housewarming, Arlene Bakke Rutuelo, enthused about the space: “This new ‘home,’ overlooking the United Nations, has a wonderful balance in decor reflecting the importance of core Norwegian values that were seen and embraced by all who attended: nature, tradition, and art blending in a remarkable way. The open office space with endless windows with views of the capital of the world, New York City, reminds us of the transparency and honesty of the Norwegian people, which I am very proud to call my family!”

It sounds like a place for success. The Norwegian diplomats already have a fabric talisman from the U.N. Security Council’s room in their midst and the U.N.’s headquarters literally and figuratively in their sights.

Visit the officical website of the Norwegian Consulate in New York: www.norway.no/en/usa/norway-usa/new-york.

This article originally appeared in the August 9, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Victoria Hofmo

Victoria Hofmo was born, raised, and still lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the historical heart of Norwegian New York. She is 3/4 Scandinavian: 1/2 Norwegian and 1/4 Danish/Swedish. Self-employed, she runs an out-of-school-time program that articulates learning through the arts. Hofmo is an advocate for arts and culture, education, and the preservation of the built and natural environment of her hometown, with a love for most things Scandinavian.