Corridors of Power

Luca Zanier

2008 - Ongoing


Statesʼ have Governments, Corporations are steered by a Board of Directors and even organizations of our civil society – Labour Unions for example – function in conjunction with a superordinate governing body or umbrella organization. Should decisions be made publicly or voluntarily as in Democracies or taken in a constrained fashion as in Dictatorships: decisions made by individuals determine a large part of our collective existence. Our societal, economic and political leadership or command is in the hands of a few decision makers and the location and place in which they make their decisions may be pompous, representative and publicly accessible, and sometimes small, inconspicuous and covert. In any case they are Corridors of Power. They are spaces, which I photographically wish to portray.

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  • The blue and gold silk tapestry on the walls shows the anchor of faith, the growing wheat of hope and the heart of charity. Whenever world peace is threatened the UN Security Council convenes in this chamber. A representative of each of its five permanent and ten non-permanent member states must be present at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City at all times so that the Council can meet within two hours as the need arises.

  • The walls of the Trusteeship Council Chamber are lined with ashwood to enhance acoustics. Gifted to the United Nations by Denmark in 1951 and designed by Danish architect Finn Juhl, the chamber stands empty for now. With the independence of Pacific island nation Palau on 1 October 1994, the last remaining of eleven trust territories whose administration the Council had supervised achieved self-determination. The body suspended its work.

  • From the exterior to its centrepiece auditorium, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer conceived the trade union centre “Bourse du travail“ in the Paris suburb of Bobigny as a building of undulating waves and curves. The Confédération Générale du Travail, founded in 1895, is the oldest and most influential French trade union. For all its status, the union’s protests failed to block the 2013 labour market reform. The new labour law allows companies to cut working hours during downturns and simplifies redundancy procedures.

  • To decide on questions of peace, security and finances, the U.N. General Assembly requires a two-thirds majority vote by its 193 member states. With a seating capacity of over 1,800, the General Assembly Hall is the largest room at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The organization’s 18-acre site on Manhattan’s East Side, once a rundown area of slaughterhouses, was purchased in 1946 with a donation of $8.5 million from philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

  • Sparkling and glistening, the womb-like space of the debating chamber is hidden underground. Its domed roof rises from the lawn of the curved six-story main building of the Communist command centre. The Parisian headquarters of France’s Communist party were designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Former French president Georges Pompidou called the building “the only good thing those communists ever did”. Niemeyer, himself a committed Communist, worked free of charge.

  • The Tishman Auditorium, designed in 1930 in art deco style, was the first building constructed for The New School at its campus in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The university, founded in 1919 and known for most of its existence as the New School for Social Research, aims to inspire its nearly 10,000 students to change the world. Among its alumni are filmmaker Woody Allen, dramatist Tennessee Williams and Israeli president Shimon Peres.

  • Ever since Switzerland became a federal state in 1848, the 200 seats on its National Council have been allocated on the basis of census figures. With a current population of 7.5 million, there is one representative for every 37,500 inhabitants. But even the smallest of Switzerlands’s 26 cantons such as Appenzell Innerrhoden, population 15,500, elects at least one member to the parliamentary chamber in Bern. The electronic voting buttons are hidden in the holes in the council chamber desks that used to hold inkwells.

  • Eight almost invisible pillars carry the weight of the collective factual knowledge of Zurich University’s Law Library, spread over five galleried floors and 5000 running metres of bookshelves. In 2004 the university’s faculty of law was brought under one roof in the building at 74-76 Rämistrasse. To give the listed building its inbuilt house of books, Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava installed the ovoid glass-topped structure in the formerly open courtyard.

  • The Palais des Nations is a focal point for international diplomacy. The European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva host roughly 9000 meetings and conferences a year, attended by 28,000 delegates. Water from Lake Geneva is used to cool the Palace and its almost three dozen conference rooms.

  • Quiet room of bare stone walls: The prayer room’s onyx shell glows with indirect lighting. People of all creeds and denominations gather at the Home of FIFA, the Zurich headquarters of the International Federation of Association Football. The football congregation’s prayer room eschews doors and religious symbolism alike. Only the passageways come with green arrows pointing toward Mecca.

  • The executive committee meets on the third of five underground floors in the Home of FIFA. Swiss architect Tilla Theus calls the headquarters she designed for the International Federation of Association Football in Zurich’s exclusive Zürichberg neighbourhood “a private residence for the family”. The football-family’s decision-makers gather in the subterranean conference room lit by a crystal chandelier in the shape of a football stadium. Ex-FIFA president Joseph Blatter opined that the light in places like this „should come from the people themselves who are assembled there“.

  • The emptiness before the storm: During business hours the rush of people into the reading room on the sixth floor of the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Center is so great that the library of the Humboldt University in Berlin imposed strict rules for users – whoever stays away from his table for more than 60 minutes loses his seat.

  • Members of parliament have sat in twos for the longest time in Malta’s two-party Parliament. The hall in the palace of the Grand Master, the traditional seat of the rulers on the island for centuries, has lost its function, and the deputies have to get used to a new seating arrangement: As of May the House of Representatives convenes in the new parliament building on Valetta’s Liberty Square, designed by famous architect Renzo Piano.

  • The construction of the Aula Bunker next to the old Ucciardone state prison in the Sicilian city of Palermo was the precondition for Italy’s first mass trial against the Mafia. 475 defendants spent time behind bars in this high-security courtroom made of rocket-proof reinforced concrete. A tank stood in front of the door on each of the 349 days of hearings, from February 1986 until December 1987. In the end, 358 members of the Cosa Nostra were convicted in the Aula Bunker, 19 with life
    sentences, for a total prison time of 2,665 years.

  • Every six months, room 50.1 experiences a place rotation according to plan: In all meeting rooms in the Brussels headquarters of the Council of Ministers, the seating arrangement follows the cycle of the EU presidency. The meeting space is framed by glass cubicles of interpreters. The Directorate General for Interpretation of the European Commission is the largest interpreting service in the world, costing annually around 126 million euros, or 25 cents per EU citizen.

  • Democracy, human rights, the rule of law and its protection are the subjects of the Council of Europe, and the Parliamentary Assembly is its venue of debate. The Council, established in 1949 as the first of the major European organizations, today has 47 member states. Six other countries are represented with observer status in Strasbourg’s European Palais: Israel, Japan, Canada, Mexico, the US and the Vatican.

  • A blue and yellow setting: the press conference room in the EU Council building displays the colours of the European flag. The Brussels press corps is one of the largest in the world. Only in London and Washington do more correspondents gather in one place. Some 1,000 have been accredited in the EU capital, with the largest offices being maintained by Germany’s ARD and China’s state news agency Xinhua.

  • Just once a month, the 751 MEPs hold their meetings for four days in their second seat in Strasbourg, accompanied by nearly 4,000 employees and interpreters and truckloads of documents. Around 200 million euros of tax money is spent for these parliamentary commutings. Only a unanimous decision by the 28 EU Member States could put an end to this monthly migration. So far, the French government has blocked all attempts to make Brussels the sole parliamentary location.

  • Once a week, permanent representatives convene in the meeting room of the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg: the ambassadors who represent the foreign ministers of the 47 Member States in the decision-making body of the Council of Europe. The organization has adopted more than 200 conventions and protocols since its foundation in 1949, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Convention against Torture and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.