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Everything you wanted to know about the Peace Bench at the National Museum of Qatar

22 October 2020
A photo of the bench which looks like a silver semi-circle, and the National Museum of Qatar in the background.
Widely known as the Peace Bench, this sculpture is purposefully slanted towards the middle to instigate conversation between those who sit on it.

If you’ve visited the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) you’ve most likely seen in front of the building, a semi-circular bench that resembles a warm smile. With the desert rose structure as your  backdrop, the silver bench makes the perfect aesthetic for Instagram photos, but do you know the story behind it?

What is NMoQ’s Peace Bench?

Designed by Snøhetta, a Norwegian design company, NMoQ’s bench is only the second of its kind in the world. The first, was originally commissioned by the Nobel Peace Center and installed in the summer of 2019 in front of the   in New York, then later moved to a prominent location in Oslo. 

Originally titled The Best Weapon bench, it is now more widely known as the Peace bench. Measuring 6.5 meters in length, the structure is made from 100% recyclable aluminum supplied by the Norwegian aluminum manufacturer, Hydro, and created in collaboration with well-known Norwegian furniture company, Vestre. It symbolises peace and the bridging of gaps between different nations. The design of the bench is intentionally sloped in the center, so that when people sit on it, they find themselves ‘forced’  to sit next to each other. A purposeful way of bringing people together and encouraging interactions between strangers. 

If you’re wondering why it’s called The Best Weapon when it’s built to foster connection the name actually comes from a quote by Nelson Mandela, which is engraved on the bench’s surface – ‘the best weapon is to sit down and talk.’

 

The peace bench sits in front the UN headquarters in New York with lights reflecting off the UN building and the night sky
The first Peace Bench was placed in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City © Lars Tornøe
'Art and culture are vital tools for bringing people together and creating spaces for innovation and expression, and this installation is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the importance of conversation, diplomacy and dialogue in society, whoever we are or wherever we come from'
Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums

How did the bench come to NMoQ?

The Nobel Peace Center chose to make a gift of this bench to NMoQ because of the museum’s important mission to bring diverse communities together in order to experience Qatar’s past, present and future.

‘The bench is a symbol of diplomacy and dialogue, which is much needed in today’s international climate. The idea of the bench is to encourage people to sit down and talk – not only to their friends, but also to strangers and adversaries. Placing it at the National Museum of Qatar will support this idea and message in a wonderful way,' Liv Tørres, Executive Director at the Nobel Peace Center, said.

#UNDAY

This year, the United Nations marks its 75th anniversary. Its founding charter enshrined international peace as one of its principles. Although the Peace Bench is just a symbol, the idea behind it – of fostering human connection and diplomacy – has been one of the main tools organisations like the UN have used to foster peace. 

Have you sat on the Peace Bench? Share your photos and experiences with us on Instagram by tagging @Qatar_Museums.

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