A place to sit down and talk

Photo: Bjørnar Øvrebø

"The best weapon is to sit down and talk," said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela. At the peace bench you can do just that.

The six-meter-long aluminium bench is shaped like a gentle arch so that those sitting on it are brought closer together.

The peace bench has been named "The Best Weapon" after the Nelson Mandela quote engraved on the installation. "The best weapon is to sit down and talk," said Mandela, ten years after he was released from prison on Robben Island. In the same way that Mandela encouraged sitting down and talking to the enemy, the bench should inspire peaceful conversation.

It is designed as a semicircle, so that those who sit on it slide closer together. Snøhetta has designed the bench for the Nobel Peace Center, and it is produced by Vestre in aluminium from Hydro. The bench, which will be located on City Hall Square in Oslo, reminds us how important it is to sit down and talk together.

«We believe in using design as a tool to create lasting symbols that foster fruitful communication between people.»

Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, founder of Snøhetta

On Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July 2019, the first peace bench was unveiled outside the UN headquarters in New York. The bench stood on the famous UN Plaza for two months, and was visible to all heads of state and others who participated in the UN high-level political forum on sustainable developmentthat year.

Photo: Kjetil Skårdal Andersen & Bjørnar Øvrebø / Snøhetta
Photo: Bjørnar Øvrebø
Photo: Bjørnar Øvrebø

Designed to bring people together

Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 together with the man who had released him from 28 years of captivity, South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk. The two received the award for their work in dismantling the apartheid regime and laying the foundations for a democratic South Africa.

"Nelson Mandela went straight from prison to the negotiating table," said Norwegian Nobel Committee leader Francis Sejersted at the 1993 awards ceremony, praising Mandela for entering into dialogue with his former enemy without letting bitterness and hatred triumph.

Inspired by Mandela and other Peace Prize laureates who have worked to promote dialogue, the peace bench is designed precisely to bring people together.

"In today's society, with growing differences, polarization and hard-hitting online debates, the ability to create dialogue is perhaps more important than ever. We want to put dialogue on the agenda and contribute to a culture where there is room for a broad range of voices. And we can learn a lot from the Peace Prize laureates, " says Nobel Peace Center executive director Kjersti Fløgstad.

On December 8, the peace bench will take its place on Oslo City Hall Square outside the Nobel Peace Center.