United Nations Headquarters is a distinctive
complex in New York
City that has served as the official headquarters of the
United Nations since its completion
in 1950. It is located in the Turtle
Bay neighborhood, on the east side of Midtown Manhattan, on spacious grounds overlooking the East River.
The United Nations headquarters viewed
from its main entrance
The United Nations has three additional, subsidiary, regional
headquarters or headquarter districts. These are located in
Geneva (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria), and Nairobi (Kenya).
These adjunct offices help represent UN interests, facilitate
diplomatic activities, and enjoy certain extraterritorial
privileges, but only the main headquarters in New York contains the
seats of the principal organs of the UN, including the General
Assembly and Security Council.
is in New York City, the land occupied by the United Nations
Headquarters is considered international territory, and its borders
are First Avenue on the
west, East 42nd
Street to the south, East 48th Street on the north and the
River to the east.
However, according to the
Agreement Between the United States and the United Nations
Regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations, Pub. L. No.
80-357, 61 Stat. 756 (1947): “Except as otherwise provided in this
agreement or in the General Convention, the federal, state and
local courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction over acts
done and transactions taking place in the headquarters district as
provided in applicable federal, state and local laws.” Thus, "the
district remains under the law and judicial jurisdiction of the
passes underneath the Conference Building of the complex.
The United Nations Headquarters complex was constructed in New York
City in 1949 and 1950 beside the East River, on of land purchased
from the foremost New York real estate developer of the time,
. Nelson Rockefeller arranged this
purchase, after an initial offer to locate it on the Rockefeller family estate of Kykuit was rejected
as being too isolated from Manhattan.
The $8.5 million
purchase was then funded by his father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
, who donated it to
the City. The lead architect for the building was the real estate
firm of Wallace Harrison
personal architectural adviser for the family.
Planning and construction
Rather than announce a competition for the design of the facilities
for the headquarters, the UN decided to commission a collaborative
effort among a multinational team of leading architects. American
architect Wallace Harrison was named the director of planning, and
a board of design consultants was nominated by member governments.
The board consisted of N.D. Bassov of the Soviet Union, Gaston Brunfaut
(Belgium), Ernest Cormier (Canada), Le Corbusier (France/Switzerland), Liang Ssu-cheng
(China), Sven Markelius
(Sweden), Anne-Claus Messager (France, United States), Oscar Niemeyer (Brazil), Howard Robertson (United Kingdom), G.A.
Garrett Gruber (United States of
America), Julio Villamajo (Uruguay).
designs were evaluated by the team and the final project derived
from the drawings of Niemeyer and Corbusier.
Bound by such constraints as the East River Drive (later the
Roosevelt East River
Drive) and the East
River, it became necessary to build a high-rise office
building for the secretariat. The 39-story Secretariat Building was controversial in its time but became a
Per an agreement with the New York City government, the buildings
meet some but not all local fire safety and building codes.
The construction of the headquarters was financed by an
interest-free loan of $65 million made by the United States
The UN's founders believed that decolonization
was many decades away;
accordingly, they instructed the architects of the new UN buildings
in New York to allow for an expansion to only "some 70
Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, Chopmist
Hill Area of Scituate, Rhode Island and even the Black Hills of South
Dakota and Bald Head Island in North
Carolina were all
proposed as sites for the United Nations Headquarters before
Manhattan was finally decided upon. It was later revealed
that France, the
Kingdom, and the Netherlands voted against situating the headquarters in the
1945-6, London hosted the
first meeting of the General Assembly in Methodist
Central Hall, and the Security Council in Church
House. The third and sixth General Assembly
sessions, in 1948 and 1951, met in the Trocadéro in Paris.
the construction of the current complex, the UN was headquartered
at a temporary location in Lake Success, New York, a western suburb of Nassau County on
Island. The Security Council has also held sessions
on what was then the Bronx campus of
College (now the site of Lehman College) from March to August 1946.
the choice of the site in New York City, Navy Island near Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada was proposed
as an alternative headquarters for the United Nations.
international committee pitched the site as the "World Peace
Capital" over 1945 and 1946. The island was considered to be an
ideal location as it lay on the boundary of two bordering countries
of a peaceful status. It was proposed that Navy Island would be
ceded to the United Nations as long as the headquarters remained,
and to revert to the Canadian government should the UN move. The
proposal was ultimately turned down in favor of the current site in
New York City.
Since the Headquarters buildings are in need of repair, it was
suggested that a new temporary site be created at the old Lake
Success location. Brooklyn was also suggested as a temporary site.
alternative for a temporary headquarters or a new permanent
facility was the World Trade Center site.
Canadian government, along with provincial and municipal
authorities, have proposed Montreal as a site to move the headquarters; a former
docklands site has been earmarked and preliminary drawings
However, the UN turned down the request and
renovations were slated to begin in the spring of 2008.
The site of the United Nations Headquarters has extraterritoriality
status. This affects
some law enforcement where UN rules override the laws of New York
City, but it does not give immunity to those who commit crimes
there. In addition, the United Nations Headquarters remains under
the jurisdiction and laws of the United States, although a few
members of the UN staff have diplomatic immunity
and so cannot be
prosecuted by local courts unless the diplomatic immunity is waived
by the Secretary-General. In 2005, Secretary-General Kofi Annan
waived the immunity of Benon Sevan
, Aleksandr Yakovlev
relation to the Oil-for-Food
. All have been charged in the U.S. Federal Court of
New York, except for Kofi Annan's own son, also implicated in the
scandal. Benon Sevan later fled the U.S. to Cyprus, while Aleksandr
Yakovlev and Vladimir Kuznetsov decided to stand trial.
The currency in use at the United Nations headquarters' businesses
is the U.S. dollar. English and French are the working languages of
the United Nations, i.e., most of the daily communication within
secretariat and most of the signs in the UN headquarters building
are in French and English.
The complex has a street address of 760 United Nations Plaza, New
York, NY 10017, USA. For security reasons, all mail sent to this
address is sterilized, so items that may be degraded should be sent
by courier. The United Nations Postal
issues stamps, which must be used on stamped
mail sent from the building. Journalists, when reporting from the
complex, often use "United Nations" rather than "New York" as the
identification of their location in recognition of the
The complex includes a number of major buildings. While the Secretariat
Tower is most predominantly featured in depictions of the
headquarters, it also includes the domed General Assembly Hall, the
Library, as well as the Conference and Visitors Center, which
is situated between the General Assembly and Secretariat buildings,
and can be seen only from FDR Drive or the East River.
inside the perimeter fence
complex stands a line of flagpoles where the flags of all 192 UN
member states, plus the U.N.
, are flown in English alphabetical order.
Art at the United Nations
The complex is also notable for its gardens and outdoor sculptures.
sculptures include the "Knotted Gun," a gift from the Luxembourg government and "Let Us Beat Swords Into
Plowshares," a gift from the Soviet Union.
The latter sculpture is the only appearance
of the "swords into plowshares" quotation, from Isaiah
2:4, within the complex. Contrary to
popular belief, the quotation is not carved on any UN building.
it is carved on the "Isaiah Wall" of Ralph Bunche Park across the street. A piece of the
Wall also stands in the U.N. garden.
prominent artworks on the grounds include a Marc Chagall stained
glass window memorializing the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the
Japanese Peace Bell which is
rung on the vernal equinox and the opening
of each General Assembly session, a Chinese ivory carving made in 1974 (before the ivory trade was
largely banned in 1989), and a Venetian mosaic depicting Norman
Rockwell's painting The Golden Rule.
While outside of the complex, the headquarters also includes two
large office buildings that serve as offices for the specialized
agencies of the organization, such as UNDP
. These buildings,
known as DC-1 and DC-2 are located at 1 and 2 UN Plaza
respectively. There is also an identification office at the corner
of 46th Street, inside a former bank branch, where pre-accredited
diplomats, reporters, and others receive their grounds pass.
House (3 UN
Plaza) and the UNITAR
Building (807 UN Plaza) are also part of headquarters. However, the
Church Center of the United Nations (777 UN Plaza) is a private
building owned by the Methodist Church
an interfaith space housing the offices of several non-governmental
In recent years, however, the headquarters buildings have come to
need extensive renovation, including the need to install
sprinklers, fix leaks, and remove asbestos. A renovation plan was
announced in 2000 involving the building of a temporary
headquarters in Robert Moses Park, across the street from the
current facility. Once renovations were finished, the
temporary building would be used to ease overcrowding at the DC-1
and DC-2 However, due to the refusal of the federal and New York state governments to fund the project, little has
been accomplished as of 2006.
On July 28, 2007 it was
announced the complex will undergo a $1 billion renovation starting
in the fall. Swedish firm Skanska
AB won a
bid to overhaul the buildings which will include the Conference,
General Assembly and Secretariat buildings. The renovations, which
will be the first since the complex opened in 1950 are expected to
take about 7 years to complete. When completed the complex is also
expected to be more energy efficient. Officials hope the renovated
buildings will achieve a LEED
rating, although they concede that the delay in construction will
result in a projected 7.5% inflation rate in the cost of materials
and labor over the course of the project.
Depictions in popular culture
Hallway in the General Assembly
Due to its role in international politics, the United Nations
Headquarters is often featured in movies and other pop culture.
Movies in which the headquarters buildings are major settings
include North by
and Let Die
, The Art
, Batman: The Movie
, The Glass Wall
, The Second Renaissance
Disney's 1975 animated film The
. The only film actually shot on location in the
UN headquarters is The
(2005), filmed with the consent of the
Secretary-General. The headquarters is also a venue in a number of
video games, including: Tycoon
City: New York
, Sim City
Cell: Chaos Theory
, Operation Body Count
, Spider-Man 2
, True Crime: New York City
Grand Theft Auto
The cover of the Megadeth
album "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?
the U.N. headquarters lying in ruins with the sign "for sale",
while "United Abominations
features it in flames and being destroyed by meteors. In the book
World War Z, the United Nations
Headquarters is moved to the USS Saratoga.
The Marc Chagall stained glass wall was the
subject of a souvenir sheet of U.N. postage stamps
1967. A painting from the 1960s depicts a figure of Jesus
that is about the same height as the Secretariat
building, who knocks on the stained glass wall as if seeking
, demonstrations, and other
gatherings directly on First Avenue are rare. Some gatherings have
taken place in Ralph
Bunche Park, but it is too small to accommodate large
The closest location where the New York City Police
usually allows demonstrators is Dag Hammarskjöld
Plaza at 47th Street
and First Avenue, one block away from the visitors' entrance, four
blocks away from the entrance used by top-level diplomats, and five
blocks away from the general staff entrance.
Excluding gatherings solely for diplomats and academics, there are
a few organizations which regularly hold events at the UN. The
Nations Association of the United States of America
a non-governmental organization, holds an annual "member's day"
event in one of the conference rooms. Model United Nations
sponsored by UNA-USA, the National Collegiate Conference
(NCCA/NMUN), and the International Model UN
Association (IMUNA/NHSMUN) hold part of their sessions in the
General Assembly chamber. Seton Hall University's Whitehead School of Diplomacy
hosts its UN summer study program at the headquarters as
- http://www.unov.org/unov/index.html (referring to the office at
Vienna as "the third United Nations Headquarters."
- why visit the UN?
- Google Books
- N.Y. Times - "F.Y.I.: Rockefellers' Gift"
- not far from Manhattan hotel fs23html
- Financing the UN - UN Reform - Global Policy
- BBC ON THIS DAY | 24 | 1945: United Nations
Organisation is born
- Proposed United Nations Headquarters on Navy
Island, ca 1945 - Details
USATODAY.com - U.N.
- Media Matters - Matthews advocated moving U.N. to World
Trade Center site so that another terrorist attack would "force
these guys to choose sides"
- Security Notice - United Nations Headquarters
- For example, Richard Roth is CNN's UN correspondent, while Ian Williams is his counterpart at The Nation and Carola Hoyos is the UN correspondent for the
- So proudly they wave … flags of the United
Chronicle, Dec. 1992 (at the time the article was printed,
there were only 179 member states)
- Luxembourg Mission to the UN
- Swords Into Plowshares
- See, e.g., Captain America And The Crusade Against Evil:
The Dilemma Of Zealous Nationalism (book jacket
- Chagall Stained Glass
- Japanese Peace Bell
- Chinese Ivory Carving
- Norman Rockwell Mosaic
- CBS News | UN to Undergo Major Renovation | July
23, 2000 22:59:16
- Trump Touts U.N. Renovation Plan, Tells Senators
He'll Rebuild Aging Structure Free Of Charge - CBS News
- Act Globally, Get Stuck Locally - UN Financial -
Crisis Global Policy Forum
- ABC News: ABC News
- Without Action Now, the UN Capital Master Plan Is
Not Going Anywhere Anytime Soon - UN Reform - Global Policy
- Turning the United Nations Green, BusinessWeek, Aug. 20,
- The Interpreter (2005) - Trivia