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two people sitting on a large white sign
The Best Weapon is the aluminium-made bench designed by Snøhetta.
Design thinking

How dialogue and design have shaped aluminium into a symbol for peace

When we were commissioned by The Nobel Peace Center to design a bench that brought people together, we immediately saw the potential of developing something more influential than just an ordinary bench. One of the excellent qualities of aluminium is the longevity it gives us for such a piece.

We always start our design process with dialogue. Through dialogue with our collaborators and internally in our project teams, we work to define what potential each project realistically has based on the market opportunity, research and exploration.

This sometimes means that an end result can be a product, but more often than not, the end result is an effort of responding to larger social values or ambitions, whether it be a physical product, a strategy, an exhibition or something entirely new. With the “peace bench” we set out to develop more than a functional object.

Envisioned as a smile for the Nobel Peace Center, minimal in its expression, we believed that the solid straight-forward form of the bench, cut out from a continuous radius and current scale, had the potential to tell a meaningful story about its context.

Less design is a part of sustainability

Our goal at Snøhetta is to be a driver for less design.

What I mean is that by focusing on discovering opportunities for meaningful collaborations and emerging technologies, we can make informed decisions for long-lasting designs and services that ultimately lead to less design through well-thought-out solutions.

To achieve this we always aim at choosing the right material for the specific use we are looking for.

Aluminium is a natural material choice for designers

Our project team that has worked with us on developing the bench included one of the world’s largest aluminium manufacturers, so the materiality of the installation became a given. This opened up for us to explore the impact and the story behind the piece.

Aluminium is actually one of our favorite materials to work with because of its unique qualities. The different material qualities and the flexible production techniques, ranging from casting and extruding to more easily accessible manufacturing methods, allows us to customize our material use to adhere to individual project needs and ambitions.

This, combined with its more sustainable ability as an infinitely recyclable and long-lasting material, often make aluminium a natural material choice for designers.

The bench as a symbol

We believed the bench could be a symbol of the “best weapon” from Nelson Mandela’s quote that “the best weapon is to sit down and talk.”

We hope the bench – The Best Weapon – will bring a smile to people’s faces and perhaps even instigate a few important conversations.

This article was originally published in July 2019.

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