Swedish National Heritage Board, Åke Axelsson

New York, United States


Two hundred and forty freestanding ZEN NY delegate chairs upholstered with Molly 2

Seat of democracy

The new chairs in the ECOSOC Chamber, belonging to the United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in the UN headquarters in New York are upholstered with the Kvadrat textile Molly 2.

ZEN NY replaces and pays homage to the original Svedberg chair by furniture designer Elias Svedberg, which was used in the chamber for the last 70 years. Critically, it meets the requirement for a design that combines sustainability, aesthetics, and excellent durability.

Åsa Pärson: "There was a desire from the UN for the textile to be wool, and a requirement from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs' requirement was that it should be a well-proven quality."

Both Molly 2 and ZEN NY had already been proven in high-traffic contexts. The chair is based on the original ZEN design and incorporates innovations such as more voluminous upholstery and discreet handles.

ZEN NY embodies a light Scandinavian wood feel and is easy to maintain. The base and back are easy to disassemble, while it is simple to clean and replace the upholstery when required. With the uniform use of chair throughout the hall, the ECOSOC is honouring the democratic principle that all seats are equally important.

Sweden is responsible for the ECOSOC hall. Reflecting this, ZEN NY is designed by Åke Axelsson in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a reference group that included, among others, Svensk Form, the Swedish Institute, the Swedish Public Art Council, Arkdes, the Swedish National Heritage Board, and the UN headquarters. It is produced at the Gärsnäs factory in Skåne, Southern Sweden.

Shortly after the second world war, the world's leading architects were invited to sketch and develop ideas for what would become the centre of humanity's better qualities when building a new world: cooperation, optimism, and democracy. As part of this, Sven Markelius from Sweden, one of the pioneers of functionalism since the 1920s and 1930s, designed one of the house's most important meeting rooms: the ECOSOC Chamber.

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