Made in New York

United Nations Headquarters Board of Design, Wallace K. Harrison, Max Abramovitz, Oscar Niemeyer, Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret). Façade from the United Nations Secretariat Building, New York, New York. 1950 703

Aluminum, glass, and steel, Each panel: 145 × 48 × 8" (368.3 × 121.9 × 20.3 cm)
As installed with three panels: 17' 2" × 12' 4" × 24" (523.4 × 376 × 61 cm). Gift of the United Nations

Alex Fialho: While walking the streets of New York City, you can get dizzy looking up at the skyscrapers that surround you. This set of panels is from one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Chief Curator of Architecture & Design, Martino Stierli can tell you the story.

Curator, Martino Stierli: What we're looking at here is a fragment of the original curtain wall facade of the United Nations Secretariat building here in New York City. We're talking about a completely glass-clad facade that is hung in front of the structure of the building. So it's like, in a way, a curtain in a room.

The United Nations Secretariat building is situated very strategically on the edge of the East River. So it has a very commanding presence in the skyline of New York City, even though it's not one of the highest skyscrapers. And it's an immediate eye-catcher as you approach the city coming from JFK, which of course is the whole point, because this is, in the end the Assembly Hall of all these foreign dignitaries who come here regularly to discuss world matters.

The building is 39 stories high, what we represent here is one story, so it's only a very small portion of the original façade, but it gives a good indication of the aesthetic quality of this building as it was, and as it still is.

The UN Curtain wall is really the first time that this system got applied to a large-scale skyscraper. The building was, in a way, a blueprint for what New York would then rapidly become in the postwar years.

So it's really a very, very significant contribution to the architectural history of New York City that had a completely transformative effect, and really projected an entirely new vision of a city for the first time.

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