FEEDBACK – In Geneva, “Broken Chair” transformed … for the better ! | June 21, 2016

Place des Nations, outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, stands “Broken Chair”, a sculpture which has become one of the city’s emblems. Erected by Handicap International in 1997, it was just recently renovated and unveiled on June 16th, 2016.   An historic emblem in the heart of Geneva It was on August 18th 1997 […]

Place des Nations, outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, stands “Broken Chair”, a sculpture which has become one of the city’s emblems. Erected by Handicap International in 1997, it was just recently renovated and unveiled on June 16th, 2016.


 

Facing the United Nations headquarters sands "Broken Chair", a work of art by Daniel Berset and erected at the initiative of Handicap International © F. Dumonal / Handicap International

An historic emblem in the heart of Geneva

It was on August 18th 1997 that Handicap International established – initially for a three-month period – artist Daniel Berset’s monumental sculpture Place des Nations. At first, “Broken Chair” was erected in front of the United Nations headquarters as a reminder of the violence and loss caused by landmines and hence as an incentive for States to sign the Mine Ban Treaty or Ottawa Treaty. The latter was eventually signed on December 1997 and became effective in March 1999.

Dismantled in 2005 for the renewal of the Place des Nations, the sculpture’s return was subject to a great uncertainty and created a vigorous debate. However, thanks to the support of many personalities and a diffuse attachment to this artwork whose renown had spread internationally, the sculpture was back Place des Nations in March 2007.

At that time, Handicap International decided to extend the symbolic force of “Broken Chair” : as a result, it was decided to be also dedicated to supporting the banning of cluster munitions. Like landmines, cluster munitions were eventually prohibited, this time by the Oslo Treaty as of December 2008.

A revamped artwork, which has just taken on a new meaning

"Broken Chair" being dismantled ahead of its makeover © P. Schroeter / Handicap International
Right in front of the United Nations headquarters, “Broken Chair” being dismantled ahead of its makeover © P. Schroeter / Handicap International

After so many years (and successes !), in April 2016, Handicap International decided to give the artwork a serious, and much needed, makeover ! The twelve-meter high monumental sculpture, made of 5.5 tons of Douglas fir wood, was eventually unveiled, revamped, on June 16th, 2016.

What’s more, Handicap International gave the artwork’s presence Place des Nations a new meaning. “Broken Chair” now embodies:

* The desperate but dignified cry of the civilian populations butchered by all kinds of armed violence, and the States’ obligation to protect them and rescue the victims;

* The fierce ambition – which must mobilize policy makers and citizens – to durably accompany the persons, families and communities that are scarred, weakened or destabilized by conflicts, so that they can regain the autonomy to which they are entitled.

The Broken Chair sculpture both symbolizes fragility and strength, imbalance and stability, violence and dignity. Its presence Place des Nations allows everyone to develop a personal reflection about their responsibility to refuse the unacceptable, and to act.

 

At the artwork's unveiling, Jean-Baptiste Richardier, co-founder of Handicap International, answers the journalists' questions. © Marie Bro / Handicap International
At the artwork’s unveiling, Jean-Baptiste Richardier, co-founder of Handicap International, answers the journalists’ questions. © Marie Bro / Handicap International

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Posted in Humanitarian Aid