Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations

UAE
UAE

Inside and out, the architecture of this diplomatic building coalesces into a unified whole. The design speaks to the values of Middle Eastern hospitality and international engagement, while harmonizing with the historic architecture of New York City.

Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2021
  • Design Finish Year 2018
  • Size Site Area: 7,500 square feet Number of Stories: 10 Building Gross Area: 75,000 square feet
  • Awards
    2021, Best of Year Award, Government/Institutional, Interior Design Magazine 2022, Winner: Civic/Institutional, NYCxDESIGN 2022, Winner: Other, International Contemporary Furniture Fair
  • Sustainability Certifications LEED BD+C NC (New Construction) Gold, BD+C, Gold
  • Collaborators
    Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc. SBLD Studio Pentagram Van Deusen & Associates (VDA) Cini-Little International, Inc. DVS Security CCI Cosentini Associates DeSimone Consulting Engineers Philip Habib & Associates Thornton Tomasetti
Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2021
  • Design Finish Year 2018
  • Size Site Area: 7,500 square feet Number of Stories: 10 Building Gross Area: 75,000 square feet
  • Awards
    2021, Best of Year Award, Government/Institutional, Interior Design Magazine 2022, Winner: Civic/Institutional, NYCxDESIGN 2022, Winner: Other, International Contemporary Furniture Fair
  • Sustainability Certifications LEED BD+C NC (New Construction) Gold, BD+C, Gold
  • Collaborators
    Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc. SBLD Studio Pentagram Van Deusen & Associates (VDA) Cini-Little International, Inc. DVS Security CCI Cosentini Associates DeSimone Consulting Engineers Philip Habib & Associates Thornton Tomasetti

Design for diplomacy

For more than half a century, the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan has been a center of international diplomacy. The neighborhood’s transformation began with the completion of the United Nations headquarters in 1950, and continued with permanent missions to the UN from countries around the world. Located along Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, the new Permanent Mission of the UAE continues this legacy as the first ground-up mission to the UN in a decade. Fittingly, the building is designed to embrace the city—to harmonize with New York’s architectural past, while also reflecting the identity of the UAE and the traditions of Middle Eastern hospitality.

UAE
© Dave Burk | SOM

The Permanent Mission is a dramatic, yet dignified structure—it is a Gesamtkunstwerk, a work of art inspired by an all-encompassing vision, comprehensively executed down to nearly every detail, from the exterior to the interior finishes and furnishings. Hospitality and the convening of both friends and strangers are cornerstones of Middle Eastern culture, and the primary driving force behind the architecture. The building is organized into three zones: an entry hall with event spaces on the first two stories, an amenity level and staff offices on floors three through six, and executive levels and a roof terrace at the top. The layout of each floor is inspired by the principle of the courtyard, with a central reception and gathering space that is accessible from the main entrance or elevator lobby, depending on the floor. These central spaces choreograph the visitor’s progression through the building, and are stacked directly above one another from floor to floor.

With the precision of a Swiss watch, the parts fit seamlessly, creating apparent simplicity out of complexity. SOM has designed an architectural model of diplomatic agreement.

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The courtyard, reimagined

For all visitors, the courtyard experience begins with the double-height entry hall. Located just beyond a Portuguese limestone security checkpoint at the building’s entrance, this grand, 40-foot-tall hall is the interior’s signature space and, like a traditional Middle Eastern courtyard, is the building’s point of immersion. The space is enveloped in natural, serene materials, and its furnishings are customized by Lebanese designer Nada Debs—with whom SOM collaborated for furniture on the second floor as well as the executive levels. The walls, floor, ceiling, and a large sculptural stair leading to the second floor are encapsulated in dark, densely veined Northern Canadian limestone. The graining of the stone—a series of ancient layers formed over millennia—expresses the natural quality of the materials and creates the essence that both the architecture and the finish are one and the same. This emphasis on naturalness—of using the grains as the patterning in the design—continues throughout the entire 75,000-square-foot building.

UAE
© Dave Burk | SOM

Sustainability as a driving force

The natural materiality of the building is also a primary contributor to the design’s LEED Gold certification target, and a reflection of SOM’s global leadership in the transition to a low-carbon future. Employee wellbeing and the use of high efficiency mechanical systems (housed on the ninth level for security and resiliency) are likewise crucial design measures incorporated to achieve this target. Additionally, the building engages with the outdoor environment through a rooftop terrace that provides sweeping views of the city.

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