From Picasso to Calder to Le Corbusier to the contents of the UNESCO Works of Art Collection, the headquarters boasts the United Nation’s largest artistic heritage collection.
No matter how often you skirt the skies or how decorated your passport is, sometimes it is easy to take for granted how recreational travel experiences fit into the context of international relations. The mission of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (better known as UNESCO) is to promote tolerance, peace, and dialogue through culture and knowledge. It is a goal closely tied to travel and the unique experience of visiting a foreign place.
The UNESCO headquarters is not a normal travel destination for tourists who come to Paris, but tours are open to the public throughout the year. The headquarters are located in Paris, France, itself a city imbued with architectural and artistic history. It is no surprise to find that the expansive grounds of the headquarters are saturated with fine art, buildings, and sculptures from both some of the world’s most famous artists, and some of the lesser known. From Picasso to Calder to Le Corbusier to the contents of the UNESCO Works of Art Collection, the headquarters boasts the United Nation’s largest artistic heritage collection. The piazza is marked by a larger-than-life manifestation of the UN logo, Erik Reitzel’s “The Symbolic Globe.” Ten thousand UN delegates constructed the logo collectively over six days in 1995. The UNESCO headquarters is very much a physical representation of the organization’s goal to promote tolerance through education and peaceful discourse.
Paris is famously labeled the City of Lights, a moniker that I learned stems from the city’s importance during the Age of Enlightenment. This was a time when intellectuals reformed society by countering superstition with science, faith with reason. Of course, today Paris is celebrated for its beauty from the tip of the glittering Eiffel tower to the striking bridges that span the River Seine. It makes perfect sense that the UNESCO headquarters at Place de Fontenoy would further distinguish the city as the home of the World Heritage Center. The main building is shaped like a three-pointed star, demonstrating Paris’ ability to be the canvas on which education and ideas blend together, a place where visiting foreigners can learn about art and culture in a peaceful setting.
My visit to the UNESCO headquarters that day- as well as the reason I traveled in Paris- was to perform in a concert. Singing is one way I experience as well as transmit culture and musical traditions. I’d also like to think that through writing, reading, and sharing the experiences found on Jetset Times, we are all part of the movement toward building cultural understanding through travel.
Article written by Marina Kaneko.