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The United Nations
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The headquarters of the United Nations is a complex in New York City. The complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since its completion in 1952. It is located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan, on spacious grounds overlooking the East River. Its borders are First Avenue on the west, East 42nd Street to the south, East 48th Street on the north and the East River to the east. 'Turtle Bay' is occasionally used as a metonym for the U.N. headquarters or for the U.N. as a whole.
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. All fifteen of the United Nations' specialized agencies are located outside New York at these other headquarters or in other cities.
Although it is situated in New York City, the land occupied by the United Nations Headquarters and the spaces of buildings that it rents are under the sole administration of the United Nations. They are technically extraterritorial through a treaty agreement with the U.S. government. However, in exchange for local police and fire protection and other services, the U.N. agrees to acknowledge most local, state, and federal laws.
The United Nations Headquarters complex was constructed in stages with the core complex completed between 1948-1952. The Headquarters occupies a site beside the East River, on 17 acres (69,000 m2) of land purchased from the foremost New York real estate developer of the time, William Zeckendorf, Sr. 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 US$8.5 million (adjusted by inflation US$82.6 million) purchase was then funded by his father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who donated it to the city. Wallace Harrison, the personal architectural adviser for the Rockefeller family, and a prominent corporate architect, served as the Director of Planning for the United Nations Headquarters. His firm, Harrison and Abramovitz, oversaw the execution of the design.
Rather than hold a competition for the design of the facilities for the headquarters, the UN decided to commission a multinational team of leading architects to collaborate on the design. The American architect Wallace K. Harrison was named as Director of Planning, and a Board of Design Consultants was composed of architects, planners and engineers nominated by member governments. The board consisted of N. D. Bassov of the Soviet Union, Gaston Brunfaut (Belgium), Ernest Cormier (Canada), Le Corbusier (France), Liang Seu-cheng (China), Sven Markelius (Sweden), Oscar Niemeyer (Brazil), Howard Robertson (United Kingdom), G. A. Soilleux (Australia), and Julio Vilamaj�ruguay).
The property was originally a slaughter house before the donation took place. While the United Nations had dreamed of constructing an independent city for its new world capital, multiple obstacles soon forced the Organization to downsize their plans. The diminutive site on the East River necessitated a "Rockefeller Center" type vertical complex, thus, it was a given that the Secretariat would be housed in a tall office tower. During daily meetings from February to June 1947, the collaborative team produced at least 45 designs and variations. After much discussion, Harrison, who coordinated the meetings, determined that a design based on Niemeyer's project 32 and Le Corbusier's project 23 would be developed for the final project. Le Corbusier's project 23 consisted of a large block containing both the Assembly Hall and the Council Chambers near the centre of the site with the Secretariat tower emerging as a slab from the south. Niemeyer's plan was closer to that actually constructed, with a distinctive General Assembly building, a long low horizontal block housing the other meeting rooms, and a tall tower for the Secretariat. The complex as built, however, repositioned Niemeyer's General Assembly building to the north of this tripartite composition. This plan included a public plaza as well. Le Corbusier and Niemeyer merged their schemes 23�32, and this, along with suggestions from the other members of the Board of Design Consultants, was developed into project 42G. This late project was built with some reductions and other modifications.
Per an agreement with the city, the buildings met some but not all local fire safety and building codes. The office of the Secretary-General is on the 38th floor.
Construction on the initial buildings began in 1948, with the cornerstone laid on 24 October 1949, and was completed in 1952. The Dag Hammarskj�Library Building, designed by Harrison and Abramovitz, was added in 1961. The construction of the headquarters was financed by an interest-free loan of $65 million made by the United States government, and the cost of construction was also reported as $65 million.
Proposed alternativesMany cities vied for the honor of hosting the U.N. Headquarters site, prior to the selection of New York City. The selection of the East River site came after over a year of protracted study and consideration of many sites in the United States. A powerful faction among the delegates advocated returning to the former League of Nations complex in Geneva, Switzerland. Suggestions came from far and wide including such fanciful suggestions as a ship on the high seas to housing the entire complex in a single tall building. Amateur architects submitted designs, local governments offered park areas, but the determined group of New York boosters that included such luminaries as Grover Whalen, Thomas J. Watson, and Nelson Rockefeller, coordinated efforts with the powerful Coordinator of Construction, Robert Moses and Mayor William O'Dwyer, to assemble acceptable interim facilities. Their determined courtship of the U.N. Interim Site committee resulted in the early meetings taking place at multiple locations throughout the New York area. Sites in San Francisco (including the Presidio), Marin County, Philadelphia, Boston, Fairfield County, CT, Westchester County, NY, and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, were among those sites given serious consideration before Manhattan was finally selected. The Manhattan site was selected after John D. Rockefeller, Jr. offered to donate $8.5 million to purchase the land.
UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskj�in front of the General Assembly building (1950s)In 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 Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Prior to the construction of the current complex, the UN was headquartered at a temporary location at the Sperry Corporation's offices in Lake Success, New York, an eastern suburb of the city in Nassau County on Long Island, from 1946�1952. The Security Council also held sessions on what was then the Bronx campus of Hunter College (now the site of Lehman College) from March to August 1946. The UN also met at what is now the New York City Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair site. The General Assembly met at what is now the ice skating rink, and the Long Island Rail Road reopened the former World's Fair station as United Nations station.
Le Corbusier and Oscar NiemeyerRight after his arrival in New York, Oscar Niemeyer met with Le Corbusier at his request. Le Corbusier had already been lobbying hard to promote his own scheme 23, and thus, requested that Niemeyer not submit a design, lest he further confuse the contentious meetings of the Board of Design. Instead, he asked the younger architect to assist him with his project. Niemeyer began to absent himself from the meetings. Only after Wallace Harrison and Max Abramovitz repeatedly pressed him to participate, did Niemeyer agree to submit his own project.
45 designs were evaluated by the team, and Niemeyer's project 32 was finally chosen. As opposed to Corbusier�s project 23, which consisted of one building containing both the Assembly Hall and the councils in the centre of the site (as it was hierarchically the most important building), Niemeyer's plan split the councils from the Assembly Hall, locating the first alongside the river, and the second on the right side of the secretariat. This would not split the site, but on the contrary, would create a large civic square.
Wallace Harrison's assistant, architect George Dudley, later stated:
It literally took our breath away to see the simple plane of the site kept open from First Avenue to the River, only three structures on it, standing free, a fourth lying low behind them along the river�s edge. ...He [Niemeyer] also said, �beauty will come from the buildings being in the right space!�. The comparison between Le Corbusier�s heavy block and Niemeyer�s startling, elegantly articulated composition seemed to me to be in everyone�s mind...
Later on, Corbusier came once again to Niemeyer and asked him to reposition the Assembly Hall back to the centre of the site. Such modification would destroy Niemeyer�s plans for a large civic square. However, he finally decided to accept the modification:
I felt he [Corbusier] would like to do his project, and he was the master. I do not regret my decision.
Together, they submitted the scheme 23�32, which was built and is what can be seen today.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, and Vladimir Kuznetsov in relation to the Oil-for-Food Programme. All have been charged in the U.S. Federal Court of New York, except for Kofi Annan's own son, who was 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 Secretariat; most of the daily communication within secretariat and most of the signs in the UN headquarters building are in English and French. English, French and Spanish are the working languages of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish are working and official languages of the General Assembly.
The complex has a street address of United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY 10017, USA. For security reasons, all mail sent to this address is sterilized, so items that may be degraded can be sent by courier. The United Nations Postal Administration 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 extraterritoriality status.
For award purposes, amateur radio operators consider it a separate "entity", and for communications the UN has its own internationally recognized ITU prefix, 4U.
StructuresThe complex includes a number of major buildings. While the Secretariat building is most predominantly featured in depictions of the headquarters, it also includes the domed General Assembly building, the Dag Hammarskj�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. Just inside the perimeter fence of the complex stands a line of flagpoles where the flags of all 193 UN member states, plus the U.N. flag, are flown in English alphabetical order.
Hall filled nearly to full capacity.
United Nations General Assembly hall.The General Assembly building holds the General Assembly Hall which has a seating capacity of 1,800. At 165 ft (50 m) long by 115 ft (35 m) wide, it is the largest room in the complex. The Hall has two murals by the French artist Fernand L�r. At the front of the chamber, is the rostrum containing the green marble desk for the President of the General Assembly, Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services and matching lectern for speakers. Behind the rostrum is the UN emblem on a gold background. Flanking the rostrum is a paneled semi-circular wall that tapers as it nears the ceiling and surrounds the front portion of the chamber. In front of the paneled walls are seating areas for guests and within the wall are windows which allow translators to watch the proceedings as they work. The ceiling of the hall is 75 ft (23 m) high and surmounted by a shallow dome ringed by recessed light fixtures. The General Assembly Hall was last altered in 1980 when capacity was increased to accommodate the increased membership. Each of the 192 delegations has six seats in the hall with three at a desk and three alternate seats behind them.
The Conference Building faces the East River between the General Assembly Building and the Secretariat. The Conference Building holds the Security Council Chamber, which was a gift from Norway and was designed by the Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg. The oil canvas mural depicting a phoenix rising from its ashes by Norwegian artist Per Krogh hangs at the front of the room.
The 39-story Secretariat tower houses offices for the Secretary General, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Office of Disarmament Affairs, and the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM).
The Dag Hammarskj�Library was dedicated on 16 November 1961. The building was a gift from the Ford Foundation and is located next to the Secretariat at the southwest corner of the headquarters campus. The library holds 400,000 books, 9,800 newspapers and periodical titles, 80,000 maps and the Woodrow Wilson Collection containing 8,600 volumes of League of Nations documents and 6,500 related books and pamphlets. The library's Economic and Social Affairs
April 13th, 2013
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