Diplomacy buildings are symbols of international representation, reflecting the country’s own culture, trade, and history by using the power of architecture. Diplomacy buildings, shaped by different architectural design understandings and needs, are very significant structures both representing cultures and providing public service. The design approaches of diplomacy buildings differ from past to present due to circumstances, politics Etc. For instance, the lack of creating public space and providing civic participation due to security measures is a feature of past diplomacy buildings. However, diplomacy buildings are inclined to more sustainable and innovative buildings combining local culture and contemporary approaches today. Thus designers reinterpret spatial and formal design approaches based on past design approaches. For this reason, many missions such as balancing the need for security and open space, using traditional motifs, creating flexible workspaces are available on today’s diplomacy buildings design approaches.

UAE diplomacy building with Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan designed by SOM - Sheet1
UAE Diplomacy Building_©Dave Burk, SOM

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), a global architectural, urban planning, and engineering firm, reinterpreted diplomacy building design by combining local culture and contemporary approaches. Their diplomacy building design, known as UAE diplomacy building, is more efficient in public space and local culture thanks to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)’s expert designers, urban planners, and engineers with a deep understanding of politics and economics. UAE diplomacy building represents the United Arab Emirates (UAE’s) diplomacy to the United Nations (UN), is located in Manhattan‘s Turtle Bay neighborhood, close to the UN headquarters, and has a ten-story in the 75,000-square-foot site. UAE diplomacy building is the diplomatic power that proves its presence in New York’s international cultural network. Therewithal being multi-story represents the dynamism of the country. UAE diplomacy building reveals the integration of culture with both its interior design and facade.

Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan

UAE diplomacy building’s main aim is that Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) want to mix the traditional architecture of New York City with the traditional Middle Eastern motifs. As a result, the art deco style of New York and palm fronds of the Middle East are mixed on the facade as symbols of peace by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). That’s why palm fronds motifs are represented with the dense array of thin vertical strips along a 75-foot-long and make cultural connotations to the building’s entrance with Indiana limestone. Tapering Indiana limestone, integrated with a glass facade, extending from the second floor to the roof represents Middle Eastern motifs. Additionally, Indiana limestone is also used in facades of buildings, such as the National Cathedral, Biltmore Estate, Hotel Pennsylvania, Pentagon, Crescent in Dallas, and the Empire State Building.

UAE diplomacy building with Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan designed by SOM - Sheet2
Facade_©Dave Burk, SOM
UAE diplomacy building with Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan designed by SOM - Sheet3
Detail in Facade_©Dave Burk, SOM

Spatial Organization

UAE diplomacy building emphasizes the skillful shaping and decoration of the cube in general, with its facade and interior designs. The entrance hall, covered with Portuguese limestone, has a rather dramatic atmosphere. Users encounter a surprise in this area: a two-story burst of space with a cliff of stairs that zigzag upward like a switchback version of ancient Greek propylaea. This space follows an inviting hall. Inviting hall represents traditional Arab attitudes of hospitality to Midtown East. This area is also a powerful symbol of architectural authority. To explain the spatial function diagram briefly; multi-purpose rooms for conferences, parties, and various other events, and smaller flexible spaces used both auditorium and art gallery are on the second floor. Staff lounges, dining rooms, and crèche are on the third floor. Up to from the fourth floor to the sixth floor are reserved for staff offices and workspaces. Similarly,  up to from the seventh floor to the eighth floor are reserved for ambassadors’ offices and workspaces. The final floor has a green roof terrace with access through a sliding glass door. Executives use this area for formal events. Skillful use of stone and wood, symmetries, and geometric simplicity draws attention to all floors. The stone material heightens formal aura and gives a ceremonial aura to UAE diplomacy building.

UAE diplomacy building with Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan designed by SOM - Sheet4
Entry Hall_©Dave Burk, SOM
UAE diplomacy building with Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan designed by SOM - Sheet5
Multipurpose Room_©Dave Burk, SOM

Furniture Design

UAE diplomacy building brings the nostalgic aura of the Middle East to interiors through furniture, referring to traditional culture. That’s why Lebanese designer Nada Debs designs contemporary sofas, armchairs, and tables for offices in the entrance hall and executive floors. Lebanese designer Nada Debs uses embroidered mother-of-pearl patterns on the edges of the furniture designs. Therewith, UAE diplomacy building’s rugs, woven with natural fibers and dyes by Afghan artisans, feature traditional intricate motifs adapt to it.

Ambassador’s Office_©Dave Burk, SOM

As a result, everything fits together in the UAE diplomatic building, from the materials to the exterior design. The simplicity of wood supports this. That’s why UAE diplomatic building is a work of art with all-encompassing, comprehensively executed, and pioneer to today’s diplomacy buildings design approaches.

Reference List

  1. Online sources

SOM. [online] Available at: https://www.som.com/ [Accessed 22 Oct. 2021].

Interior Design. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Draws on Architectural Harmony for the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations. [online] Available at: https://interiordesign.net/projects/skidmore-owings-merrill-draws-on-architectural-harmony-for-the-permanent-mission-of-the-united-arab-emirates-to-the-united-nations/ [Accessed 22 Oct. 2021].

www.ai-architect.com. SOM designs UAE diplomacy building with Middle Eastern motifs in Manhattan – Architectural CAD Drawings. [online] Available at: https://www.ai-architect.com/som-designs-uae-diplomacy-building-with-middle-eastern-motifs-in-manhattan/ [Accessed 22 Oct. 2021].

ArchDaily. (2020). Rethinking Embassy Design: Building Diplomacy Around the World. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/949506/rethinking-embassy-design-building-diplomacy-around-the-world [Accessed 22 Oct. 2021].

Diplo. Designing for diplomats: the architecture of paradoxes. [online] Available at: https://www.diplomacy.edu/blog/designing-diplomats-architecture-paradoxes/ [Accessed 22 Oct. 2021].

  1. Images/visual mediums

[Image 1] UAE Diplomacy Building. Available at: https://www.som.com/  [Accessed 22 October 2021].

[Image 2] Facade. Available at: https://www.som.com/  [Accessed 22 October 2021].

[Image 3] Detail in Facade. Available at: https://www.som.com/  [Accessed 22 October 2021].

[Image 4] Entry Hall. Available at: https://www.som.com/  [Accessed 22 October 2021].

[Image 5] Multipurpose Room. Available at: https://www.som.com/  [Accessed 22 October 2021].

[Image 6] Ambassador’s Office. Available at: https://www.som.com/  [Accessed 22 October 2021].