United Nations Secretariat Building

United Nations Secretariat Building
  1. About the United Nations Secretariat Building in New York
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The United Nations Secretariat Building is an International Style skyscraper designed by Wallace Harrison and built between 1949 and 1951, for a reported $65.0 million dollars, in New York, NY.

United Nations Secretariat Building is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The United Nations Secretariat Building is also known, or has been known as, UN Headquarters, or U.N. Building.

Its precise street address is 750 1st Avenue, New York, NY. You can also find it on the map here.

When the UN decided its headquarters would be located in the US, several cities were considered. To tip the scales towards New York, John D. Rockefeller Jr. paid $8.5 million for an option on the land where the complex is located today and donated it to the UN in December 1946.

The building has been restored 4 times over the years to ensure its conservation and adaptation to the pass of time. The main restoration works happened in 1964, 1967, 1980 and 2014.

Building's timeline

Design begins
Construction begins
Construction completed
years ago
  1. 1964 - The interioros of the building were altered to accommodate up to 126 UN country members, up from the 57 that existed when the building was originally designed..
  2. 1967 - The elevators, which were operated by staff, were converted to manual operation that the users could control by themselves..
  3. 1976 to 1980 - The General Assembly Hall and the large conference rooms were modified to accommodate the greatly expanded membership of the UN.
  4. 2008 to 2014 - The entire UN landmark complex overwent a complete overhaul.

Architect and team

Wallace Harrison was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

But that's not all, there was also a whole team of architects involved, which included: Oscar Niemeyer, Le Corbusier, Gaston Brunfaut, Liang Seu-Cheng, Sven Markelius, Howard Robertson, Argyle Soilleux Garnet, Julio Vilamajo, Nikolai Bassov, and Ernest Cormier.

Wallace Harrison and the other architects already mentioned were in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the United Nations Secretariat Building a reality:

  • Heintges & Associates in charge of Facade Consultancy
  • Per Krohg as the collaborating Artist

Architectural Style

The United Nations Secretariat Building can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The United Nations Secretariat Building was designed in 1947. By 1947 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the United Nations Secretariat Building was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The United Nations Secretariat Building reaches an architectural height of 505ft (154m), with the last accesible floor being 463ft (141m) off the gorund. It has a total of 42 floors, 39 above ground and 3 basements, which combined offer a total of 889,098 sqf (82,600m2) of usable space.

In regards to parking space, the building has a total of 1500 spots available, which roughly equals 38 spots per floor (above ground), or one parking spot per every 592 sqf (55m2) of usable space.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1951, the United Nations Secretariat Building has mainly been used as Governmental space.

505ft (154m)
463ft (141m)
3 basements

Materials & Structure

The United Nations Secretariat Building uses a frame structure made of steel columns and reinforced concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade is non-load bearing either, as it is common in frame structure type buildings.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a blue-tinted glass curtain wall with double-hung windows and spandrels in a darker, green-like color. The curtain wall is divided into four main sections by three different technical floors, which are covered with a grid of louvered frames.

The facades on the short sides of the building are clad in white Vermont marble.

As opposed to many skyscrapers, the detailing of the curtain wall empathizes the horizontal lines instead of the verticals.


  • es.wikiarquitectura.com
  • www.un.org
  • en.wikipedia.org
  • www.usgbc.org