UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS: A WORLD CAPITAL
"Take a look at our present world. It is manifestly not Adolf Hitler's world. His Thousand-Year Reich turned out to have a brief and bloody run of a dozen years. It is manifestly not Joseph Stalin's world. That ghastly world self-destructed before our eyes. Nor is it Winston Churchill's world. Empire and its glories have long since vanished into history. The world we live in today is Franklin Roosevelt's world." Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
The United Nations headquarters, which sits on the East River between 42nd and 48th streets, opened its doors some 21 years before Kahn sketched his memorial to FDR. In the spirit of international cooperation, the design of the UN complex was selected by a committee of ten architects, headed by Wallace K. Harrison and Le Corbusier. After much deliberation, a design based on plans submitted by Le Corbusier and the youngest committee member, Oscar Niemeyer, was selected. (The United Nations has curated a fascinating collection of architectural sketches of the complex and photographs from the design process available here
The resulting complex is comprised of four buildings, most notably the Secretariat, a 505ft, 39-story, International Style tower easily viewed from Four Freedoms Park. The Secretariat has become a symbol of the United Nations. Rising above the East River, its glass windows tinted green, it is a beacon of modernist design: sleek, balanced, and clean. The choice of International Style, an architectural style popularized in the 1920s and 1930s, was intentional; it symbolized the very change the United Nations sought to make, that of international collaboration, a chance for a new peace, and a breaking with the past.
Read more about the design of the United Nations headquarters, and the fascinating history behind the UN, and FDR's role in its creation here
Photo: Pictured here the United Nations Secretariat Building and Dag Hammarskjöld Library, with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive in the foreground and the East River just visible at right, undated. Begun in 1947 and completed in 1952, the thirty-nine-story Secretariat Building was the first New York City skyscraper whose facade consisted of a glass skin. It became a prominent modernist symbol of the UN. LOC