In the aftermath of World War II and its devastation, the world’s leaders sought a means to prevent such conflicts in the future—and decided to create the United Nations. Multiple sites were considered, including Flushing Meadow, in Queens, site of the 1939 World’s Fair. When a development project in Manhattan (along the East River) fell-apart, the 18 acre site was purchased by John D. Rockefeller—who donated the land to the newly-formed United Nations. The land was converted to international territory (thus neutral) and does not belong to the United States. Several well-regarded Modernist architects were hired to design the premises in the “International Style”—a style which conveyed a fresh, optimistic start after such a terrible war.
In consultation with other architects, including Le Corbusier, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer drew-up the plans. The tallest building, called The Secretariat, is a green glass “curtain tower” and was the first New York City skyscraper built in the International Style. In front of The Secretariat (and to the left) is the low-slung (five story) General Assembly Hall—the heart of the UN complex where up to 1,800 people can witness the world resolving its conflicts peacefully. The Secretariat was begun in 1949 and the entire campus was finished in 1952.
The cast spelter model of the UN complex, made in the later 1950’s, shows the main elements of the headquarter’s architecture. It was made as a special souvenir.
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