Open dialogue around “Palais des Nations” by François Vermot

Reimagining spaces for future diplomacy through art and architecture


Geneva has one of the richest histories of international collaboration among nations and citizens, including hosting the League of Nations and the United Nations. The Palais des Nations, built in 1930, is one of the busiest conference centers in Europe. Decisions taken at this iconic venue have a global impact on living standards, human rights and well-being of all peoples. Yet, we see our current governance structures and systems often fail to address effectively complex geopolitical, social, environmental, economic and ethical challenges.

Under the Strategic Heritage Plan (SHP), Palais des Nations is currently undergoing a complete renovation to modernize work spaces while preserving its historical legacy. This transformative project has to adapt to today’s complex socio-economic realities and enable spaces for future diplomacy and governance to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

How can art and architecture help us reimagine spaces for diplomacy that is inclusive, brings new solutions and changes social frameworks for our sustainable future?


Art4Action initiated and convened a UN Library Talk, together with the United Nations Library and the Center of Photography Geneva (CPG). The event brought together the views of architects, art experts and diplomats coupled with an artistic photo exhibition “Palais des Nations” by François Vermot. The event was generously supported by the Mission of Switzerland to the UN and the Mission of Slovenia to the UN.

The photographs about the Palais by Swiss contemporary photographer François Vermot were taken before the Palais’ transformation and were exhibited at the UN Library in December 2018. Earlier in the year, the Center of Photography Geneva hosted a collective exhibition “Ça c’est Genève” with Vermot’s series of photographs which inspired the organization of the UN Library Talk and expedition. His artistic book “Palais des Nations,” with a foreword by Michael Møller, UNOG Director General and Sami Kanaan, Mayor of Geneva, was also launched and shared with participants.

The library talk was moderated by Barbara Bulc, Art4Action, with introductory remarks by Francesco Pisano, Director, United Nations Library Geneva and Joerg Bader Director, Centre de la Photographie Genève. A discussion was hosted with:                          

  • John Palmesino, Architect and Urbanist; Co-founder, Territorial Agency and Curator, The Neutrality Project
  • Tomaz Mencin, Human Rights Ambassador, Mission of Slovenia to the UNOG and Representative of Slovenia on the Advisory Board of the Strategic Heritage Plan            
  • Oliver Hoehne, Minister-Counsellor and Deputy Head of Multilateral Division, Mission of Switzerland to the UNOG and a Swiss Focal Point for the Strategic Heritage Plan                          
  • Véronique Neiss, Chief, Design and Construction, Strategic Heritage Plan, United Nations Office at Geneva        

We are looking forward to continue building multi-disciplinary dialogues reimagining spaces and solutions for our sustainable and shared future.


  • UN Library Talk engaged audience in an open dialogue with architects, art experts and diplomats coupled with an artistic photo exhibition and art exhibition
  • Invitations were shared with all UN agencies and diplomatic missions to the UN along with non-governmental organizations, business communities and the general public in Geneva and beyond
  • Art4Action’s commitment to continue hosting a series of thematic open dialogues in the future


Additional Resources:

Invitation to The UN Library Talk, December 4, 2018

Change will not happen unless we create something new. Art and architecture show us how.
Barbara Bulc, Founder Art4Action


“Palais des Nations” book and exhibition of photographs by François Vermot, with images from the UN Library Talk in December 2018 at the United Nations Library in Geneva (Photo credits François Vermot, UN Library and Art4Action)