As predicted I had a ball in New York. What a great place. The icing on the cake was spending 3 days at a conference in the United Nations Headquarters. I got the impression most of the delegates took the surroundings for granted, while I was obsessing over the typography, the chairs and the general ephemera of international relations, 1950s-style.
In the conference room there were two rows of chairs in different colours - one row for delegates, the second for alternates. The desks had little microphones, an earpiece and a space for a nameplate if I'd been a country there on diplomatic business. The nameplates were sitting out at the back in a huge pile, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe with the Holy See sitting out on top.
Outside the conference room there were these phone boxes, and the best thing was they usually had two or three people in national dress in them, making an urgent call. It was like an old film. And everything else in the building was beautiful. The assembly rooms are spectacular, in a Cold War, Dr Strangelove kind of way. It's a combination of modernist aesthetics with the most beautiful colours and fantastic detail - classic typography, muted lighting and great seating.
It was hard to do it all justice without a better camera but here's the United Nations Flickr set. There are much better picures in The UN Building by Ben Murphy, some of which are also on his website. The book also has the background on how it was built - the committee of international architects, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer among them must have tested diplomatic protocol to its limits before the place was even built.