The United Nations in Perspective

Jun 15–Sep 26, 1995

MoMA

Installation view of The United Nations in Perspective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Mali Olatunji

This exhibition explores the architectural development of one of the most important symbolic structures built after World War II. The four buildings (constructed 1947–52) that make up the United Nations headquarters complex also constitute the architectural apotheosis of modernism’s functionalist aesthetic, which attempted to prevail over established national traditions and prejudices. The exhibition includes approximately thirty-five original drawings (many displayed for the first time), fifteen contemporary color photographs by Adam Bartos, and a model, as well as several books and pamphlets.

An international board of design—ten architects, including renowned modernists Le Corbusier (France), Oscar Niemeyer (Brazil), and Sven Markelius (Sweden), directed by Wallace K. Harrison (American)—developed the concept for the United Nations headquarters. Hugh Ferriss, one of America’s most gifted architectural draftsmen, translated the architects’ sketches and ideas into beautifully rendered perspectives. Twenty-five of these idiosyncratic and dazzling pencil and charcoal drawings, including the final scheme endorsed by the board of design, form the centerpiece of the exhibition.

Organized by Peter Reed, Associate Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, with the assistance of George A. Dudley, architect, planner, educator, and author of A Workshop for Peace: Designing the United Nations Headquarters.

The United Nations in Perspective is made possible by a grant from the New York City Host Committee for the United Nations Fiftieth Anniversary. Lenders to the exhibition include the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, the Swedish Museum of Architecture, the United Nations, and private collections.

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