Going Dutch

Hella Jongerius, Rem Koolhaas, and Irma Boom redesign the Delegates’ Lounge at the renovated United Nations building in New York City.

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The project began when the U.N. started planning the renovation of its 61-year-old complex. Several member states decided to make special contributions to the effort. (The Danish government restored the Trusteeship Council Chamber, a meeting room designed by one of Denmark’s midcentury stars, Finn Juhl.) For the Dutch, refurbishing the Delegates’ Lounge would provide a high-profile showcase. The country’s culture ministry asked Jongerius and three other designers to form teams to compete for the commission. Jongerius had just finished working on a monograph with Boom as designer and Schouwenberg as editor, and tapped them for the project. The three women decided the team needed a great architect—if possible, one as great as the architects Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, who had contributed to the design of the U.N. complex. To them, that meant Koolhaas, who had extolled the U.N. in his seminal book Delirious New York.

Vitra will soon release Jongerius’s wheeled chairs (without the wheels).

Courtesy Frank Oudeman

After Boom, who teaches at the Yale University School of Art, examined and photographed the room, the group began meeting at her studio in Amsterdam on Saturday mornings. (Both Koolhaas and Schouwenberg live in Amsterdam; Jongerius is based in Berlin; and Lester splits his time between Amsterdam and Shanghai.) They went through a number of schemes before settling on the one that Jongerius and Koolhaas eventually presented to a jury in The Hague. That jury of government officials and culture mavens included Aaron Betsky, the former director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute. 

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