Harrison, Wallace K.

First Presbyterian Church

Added by jon buono, last update: April 17, 2012, 11:21 pm

First Presbyterian Church
Exterior view of First Presbyterian Church, source: Church Archives, Dorothy Mix, Historian, date: 1986
Location
1101 Bedford Street
Stamford, CT 06902
United States
41° 3' 43.8552" N, 73° 32' 19.7844" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Religion (REL)
Secondary classification: Education (EDC)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

None

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Connecticut was founded in 1853 and dedicated its first house of worship, a white frame colonial church at the edge of downtown Stamford. In 1884 a stone church replaced this building as the congregation’s membership increased and Stamford expanded around it. In 1952 the congregation’s size had doubled and acceptable worship and classroom space, and parking were problems. They decided to celebrate the congregation’s centenary by moving to a new building at 1101 Bedford Street. In the 1940s they had bought this eleven acres of rolling and wooded land, at what had become the new edge of downtown Stamford.

The site’s building committee was originally in favor of building another white frame colonial church. However, some committee members became intrigued with the possibility of building a modern design church after visiting St. John’s Lutheran Church in Midland, Michigan (Designed by Adrian B. Dow who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright). To resolve the question of colonial vs. modern, a firm of architects, Sherwood, Mills, & Smith was asked to study the project in collaboration with an outside architect. One of the partners was acquainted with Wallace Harrison and recommended choosing him as the outside architect.

“Donald F. Campbell, First Presbyterian’s pastor, remembers that at his first meeting with Sherwood, members of the congregation, and Harrison, the latter ‘expressed his interest in getting to know me and our theology. He wanted to go to Europe to look at churches there. Wally didn’t know what he would do, but he was honest about it. He was the only one without preconceived ideas for the project.’ As a result of this meeting, Harrison, in association with the firm of Sherwood, Mills, & Smith was asked to design the church complex: he would be responsible for the sanctuary (and a bell tower added in 1968); Willis N. Mills would take on the remainder of the project, consisting of a small chapel and an educational complex” (Newhouse 167).

Dr. Campbell explained to Harrison that Christian theology as interpreted by American Presbyterians “addressed a God who was as much a part of everyday life as he was a transcendental being — a concept that the new sanctuary should somehow convey” (Newhouse 169). In 1953 Harrison visited churches and cathedrals in Europe reflecting on how to design a modern sanctuary, which would express this theology. His design was approved by the congregation, construction began, and the sanctuary was dedicated in 1958. When the sanctuary was completed Harrison declared, “the church was the most satisfying job I ever worked on” (Newhouse 172).

Dates: Commission / Completion:Commission 1953 (c) Completion of the sanctuary 1958 (e) Completion of the carillon tower 1968 (e)
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect: Wallace K. Harrison of the firm Harrison & Abramovitz; Stained Glass: Gabriel Loire; Structural Engineer: Paul Weidlinger; Landscape Architect: Dan Kiley; Acoustical Consultants: Bolt, Beranck & Newman; Building Contractor: Deluca Construction Company
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Type of change: Replacement of sanctuary organ Date: 1991 (e) Persons/organizations involved: Visser Rowland Organs Circumstances/reasons for changes: Original sanctuary organ, an Allen electronic organ, began to require constant repair as its vacuum tubes aged. The Allen organ was replaced with a Visser-Rowland mechanical action pipe organ of four manuals, seventy-four ranks, fifty-one stops, and containing 4,026 pipes.
Current Use: The First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Connecticut continues to serve the purposes for which it was designed. There are no known proposals that would affect the concept or functions of the building.
Current Condition: The béton-glas, colored glass pieces inlaid in resin filler, are secured to the side wall concrete panels with caulking. The caulk weathers, and water infiltrates resulting in leaks during rainstorms. Also water infiltrates through the concrete. The exterior coating is not resistant enough to weathering to keep water from entering the structure. As water enters the concrete, it draws out in a process of efflorescence, calcium from the concrete. The leached calcium stains the interior walls. The caulking has been replaced three times since the sanctuary was constructed. However, while the material sciences of caulking and exterior coating are improving they have not yet reached a level of barring water infiltration.
General Description:

The sanctuary is constructed of 152 precast concrete panels, which rise to a height of sixty feet and span the sanctuary space without supports, forming a canopy. For eighty percent of the side wall length, the panels are inlaid with 20,000, one-inch thick pieces of colored pot-metal glass manufactured in Gabriel Lorie’s atelier in Chartres. Harrison, depicting themes from the crucifixion and resurrection, arranges the stained glass in abstract designs. This main portion of the sanctuary, the nave, is entered from the narthex, mostly in darkness except for a small amount of light entering from stained glass at the rear of the narthex. Although it was not intentional by Harrison, the sanctuary is in the shape of a fish leading to the name “the Fish Church.”

The chancel of the sanctuary is dominated by a 32-foot high cross, faced with wood from the library of Canterbury Cathedral in England, damaged by bombing during World War II. Seating capacity in the nave is 670, with 50 more seats in the balcony above the narthex.

The Maguire Memorial Carillon Tower, designed by Harrison, rises to a height of 260 feet and is located along side of the sanctuary. It contains fifty-six bells and incorporates thirty-six bells, which were given to the City of Stamford in 1947 by the Nestle Company. The Church holds these bells in trust for the city.

Construction Period:
Original Physical Context:
Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

Wallace K. Harrison first became aware of Gabriel Loire’s technique of embedding colored chunks of pot-metal glass into concrete during his European tour of churches after receiving the commission.

"(He) turned his attention to Loire’s béton-glas to see if this material of medieval origin could be used with a structural system of folded concrete that would span a space without supports. On the grounds of his Long Island home, in the same area where he had worked out the problems of prefabricated housing, Harrison spent painstaking hours tilting heavy concrete panels to test the angles at which they would stand and hold weight. The result was the use of 152 similar precast concrete panels for the sanctuary, rising to a height of sixty feet to support the structure. Each concrete structure element is reinforced with rows of protruding steel rods (reinforcement rods) that are fastened to the rods of adjoining concrete sections and then reinforced with larger rods and a layer of cement (concrete) (Harrison is forming a cast in situ vertical joint which combines the precast panels). For almost the entire width of the side walls, the panels are inlaid with thick chunks of faceted, multicolored glass. At either end, where the church is made of concrete unrelieved by glass, the exterior walls are covered with slate shingles, as is most of the roof. … the church is 234 feet long, fifty-four feet wide, and covers an area of 11,500 square feet” (Newhouse 169).

Social:
Cultural & Aesthetic:
Historical:

“There are, however a few noteworthy exceptions that embody his (Harrison’s) personal style; among them are the First Presbyterian Church at Stamford, Connecticut, two auditoriums, one for Rockefeller University in New York and another for the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D. C., and a small lodge for Nelson Rockefeller at Pocantico” (Newhouse 166).

In 1964 Harrison employed the béton-glas technique he first used in the First Presbyterian Church, in construction of the Hall of Science for the New York World’s Fair. The Great Hall is constructed of an undulating eighty-foot high, fifteen-inch thick wall. The wall is formed into 5,400 rectangular coffers of about twenty-eight by forty-eight inches. Inside each rectangle is a thin panel of concrete studded with chunks of cobalt blue Dalla de verre glass. Standing in the Great Hall, the effect is … as Harrison intended … of floating in the void of space. In 2014 a major renovation of the Great Hall, now known as the New York Hall of Science, will be completed.

General Assessment:
Documentation
Text references:

Newhouse, Victoria, Wallace K. Harrison, Architect, New York, NY, Rizzoli, 1989

Authoring
Recorder/Date: George Castellion / April 2012
Additional Images
First Presbyterian Church
Carillon Tower, Source: Church Archives, Dorothy Mix, Historian, date: 1970
First Presbyterian Church
Interior of Sanctuary, Source: Church Archives, Dorothy Mix, Historian, date: 1998
First Presbyterian Church
Raising the Sanctuary’s Precast Concrete Panels, Source: Church Archives, Dorothy Mix, Historian, date: 1956
First Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church at Stamford, Connecticut, Source: Church Archives, Dorothy Mix, Historian, date: 1956

United Nations General Assembly Building

Added by Dianne Pierce OBrien, last update: August 17, 2012, 12:12 pm

United Nations General Assembly Building
The west and south facades of the United Nations General Assembly Building., source: Dianne Pierce O'Brien, date: January 31, 2011
Location
United Nations
New York, NY 10017
United States
40° 45' 1.2456" N, 73° 58' 4.1304" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Administration (ADM)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The United Nations General Assembly building was constructed as part of a larger complex, intended to be the Headquarters for the United Nations. The General Assembly building was built for the United Nations delegation, comprised of representatives from Member States of the United Nations, who come together annually for sessions of the General Assembly. There are three other buildings on the 18-acre complex in addition to the General Assembly building, including the Secretariat building, Conference Area, and Library, as well as landscaped plazas.

Dates: Commission / Completion:February 14, 1946(e): Decision to build United Nations Headquarters in New York City Early 1947(a): United Nations Headquarters design planning commenced by design team November 20, 1947(e): Design plan approved by General Assembly January 1949 (a): Construction contract awarded to four different building firms from New York October 24, 1949(e): Construction of the United Nations Headquarters began August 21, 1950(e): Secretariat workers moved their offices into the new structures October 14, 1952(e): First meeting of the General Assembly in the General Assembly building hall
Architectural and other Designer(s): Chief Architect and Director of Planning: Wallace K. Harrison (United States); Board of Design Consultants: Nikolai D. Bassov (Soviet Union), Gaston Brunfaut (Belgium), Ernest Cormier (Canada), Le Corbusier (France), Liang Seu-Cheng (China), Sven Markelius (Sweden), Oscar Niemayer (Brazil), Howard Robertson (United Kingdom), G. A. Soilleux (Australia), Julio Vilamajo (Uruguay).
Others associated with Building/Site: John D. Rockefeller, Jr. provided $8.5 million for the purchase of the site upon which the United Nations Headquarters would be erected.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): 1976-1980(a): Meeting areas inside the General Assembly building (including the General Assembly Hall) expanded in response to the growing number of Member States of the United Nations. 2013-2015(expected): Anticipated renovation of wooden walls and second floor of south lobby and restoration of dome in the General Assembly building.
Current Use: The General Assembly building continues to be used for the annual meetings of the United Nations General Assembly. Extra conference rooms and and a communications hub for the complex are also located in the building.
Current Condition: Although it experienced some neglect in maintenance during the latter part of the twentieth century causing roof leaks, the General Assembly building remains structurally sound. Moreover, the building system has lasted over 30 years more than expected, thus many replacement pieces for the building systems can no longer be purchased. In response, a plan has been initiated to renovate the dome and roof of the General Assembly building and update its building systems in 2013-2015.
General Description:

The five story General Assembly building is the northernmost structure on the United Nations Plaza in New York City, located between 1st Avenue and East River Drive, and spanning from 44th Street to 45th Street, approximately. Its footprint is a curved trapezoid, with its 380 foot long west and east facades concavely curving. These two facades have minimal ornament and are comprised of English limestone with Vermont marble panels and trimmings to correspond with the north and south facades of the Secretariat building to the southeast. The north and south facades are straight; the wider north facade has marble piers holding translucent glass panels while the south facade is comprised of a recessed marble frame holding a 53.5 foot high plate-glass window. The north facade, which opens into a massive landscaped plaza, is the main entrance to the Headquarters for the public, while the south facade, which opens into the Secretariat plaza, is the main entrance for the United Nations delegates. There is a shallow copper dome on the top center of the structure. Inside beneath the dome is the main Assembly Hall, comprising the second, third, and fourth floors of the structure at 165 feet in length, 155 feet in width, and 75 feet in height. This hall is used for the annual General Assembly meetings and has been expanded to reflect the increased membership of the United Nations. The lower levels contain conference rooms as well as the communications hub for the entire complex.

Construction Period:

1949-1950(a)

Original Physical Context:

The context of the General Assembly building within United Nations Headquarters is almost the same today as it was in 1950. The only major addition, the Dag Hammarskjold Library to the south of the General Assembly building, was constructed in 1961.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The General Assembly building is an example of the modernization of building technology after World War II. The structure has a steel frame with English limestone flanking the east and west facades. The north facade is comprised of translucent glass panels, designed specifically for the building, set into marble piers, corresponding with the 53.5 foot high plate glass window of the south facade, also set within a marble frame. These cantilevered entrances illustrate the technological advances in engineering at the time. The sloping roof and shallow copper dome on top of the steel structure demonstrate the dismissal of classical proportions in modernist architecture and construction.

Social:

The design and construction of the General Assembly building and the entire United Nations complex remains a monument to the international organization in the post-World War II era. At the time of construction, these structures provided a symbol of the unification of the world with the intention of maintaining peace. In addition to the multi-national design team that created the General Assembly building, its worldly materials, such as English limestone and Vermont marble used on the exterior, demonstrate the international spirit of the time.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The General Assembly building is an example of the International Style of modern architecture, with its open interiors, minimal ornamentation, and regularity, as well as an extensive use of glass. Its design illustrates an international effort, combining the modern architectural styles of the numerous regions represented by its Board of Design Consultants, creating a unique structure that did not represent a single nation's style, but rather the architectural style of the unified world after World War II.
Historical:

The design and construction of the General Assembly building in conjunction with the rest of the United Nations complex demonstrates the significance of the organization in the post-World War II era. The decision to build the complex in the modernist style illustrated the stability and prominence of the organization in a world shattered by war. Moreover, constructing this complex in New York City revealed the power and preeminence of the city at this time.

General Assessment:
The General Assembly building represents a significant point in both modernist architecture and the post-World War II era. It is a prominent example of the collaboration of a multi-national design team aiming to create a culturally, socially, politically, and architecturally significant group of structures illustrating the desire for a unified and peaceful world. The need to expand the General Assembly hall and conference rooms over the last 60 years reveals the success of the United Nations organization, symbolized by the General Assembly building and corresponding structures on the United Nations Plaza.
Documentation
Text references:

"Fact Sheet: United Nations Headquarters." Visitors Services, United Nations Headquarters. 1 February 2011. ~ Hughes, C.J. "UN Headquarters Gets $1.8 Billion Facelift." Architectural Record, 20 September 2010. 1 February 2011. ~ "International Style." Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 2011. 1 February 2011. ~ Longmead, Donald. "Icons of American Architecture, Volume 2." Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2009. Pages 407-415. ~ Pastore, Arthur R. Jr. "UN's Modernistic Headquarters." The Christian Science Monitor, 27 September 1952. Page 17. ~ "The Story of United Nations Headquarters." Public Inquiries Unit, United Nations. Fact Sheet No. 23, July 2006. 30 January 2011. ~ "United Nations Capital Master Plan: Frequently Asked Questions." United Nations, 2006. 1 February 2011. ~ "United Nations Plaza, New York, NY." Google Maps, 2011. 31 January 2011.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Dianne Pierce O'Brien / February 18, 2011

GE Building

Added by Myun Song, last update: August 17, 2012, 1:58 pm

GE Building
The GE Building, source: Myun Song, date: Feb. 6. 2011
Location
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY NY 10112
United States
40° 45' 32.508" N, 73° 58' 45.1308" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Commercial (COM)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

National Register of Historic Places - December 23, 1987
National Historic Landmark - December 23, 1987
New York City Landmark - April 23, 1985

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

GE Building is the center piece of the Rockefeller Center. It is impossible to talk about GE Building without its surrounding context in that they were planed all together. Rockefeller Center was built by John D. Rockefeller Jr., son of the founder of Standard Oil. However, he was not involved in the beginning of the development of the site. It was Metropolitan Opera who came to find a new home in the land that was owned by Columbia University. John D. Rockefeller got into the development after Otto Kahn, a patron of the Metropolitan Opera, solicited his help. However, the original plan was never realized because the Depression made the opera group to withdraw from the project. Their departure left Rockefeller with the land where current Rockefeller Center stands. Instead of being discouraged, Rockefeller and John R. Todd, an executive director of the project, came up with the plan for a commercial center. They found a new tenant, Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which is the GE building's former name. The initial plan, which was made when the opera group was expected to come in, did not include a tall skyscraper, although the plan had included the plaza infront of the building. It was Raymond Hood, the famous skyscraper architect, who determined the design of the RCA building. The building resembles some of his previous work, such as the Daily News Building in New York City.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Commission - October 1. 1929 Excavation started - July 1931 Construction started - Jan 1932 Opened to the public - May 1933
Architectural and other Designer(s): Associated Architects: Raymond Hood, Harvey Wiley Corbett, William H. MacMurray, Frederick A. Godley, Jacques Andre Fouilhoux, L. Andrew Reinhard, Henry Hofmeister, Carl Landefeld, George Pauly, Wallace K. Harrison
Others associated with Building/Site: John R. Todd (a developer), John D. Rockefeller Jr., Diego Rivera who painted a mural which was replaced by the work of Jose Maria Sert, Lee Lawrie (sculptor), Paul Manship (sculptor)
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): RCA West Building was added as an extension of RCA Building in 1933. The Sixth Avenue subway was integrated to the RCA West Building in 1940. The West 50th Street freight and trucking entrance was altered to shopfronts in 1935. Alterations were made to a West 49th Street storefront in 1937.
Current Use: Offices, NBC headquarters, restaurants, Top of the Rock (an observatory).
Current Condition: The building is in a good state of repair.
General Description:

The GE Building is a seventy story steel frame limestone-clad skyscraper in the Art Deco style. The building base is clad in Deer Island granite, and the shaft is clad in Indiana limestone with aluminum spandrel panels. The main entrance is marked by Lee Lawrie's limestone and glass sculptural relief. It is roughly rectangular in plan with a maximum width of 190 feet. Its total area is about 2,200,000 square feet and height is 850 feet. It is the center piece of the entire Rockefeller Center, and it met demands for studio, retail and office space for the radio group, the original tenants. The building has distinctive setbacks derived from the principle of providing light and air to all parts of the building.

Construction Period:

July 1931 - May 1933

Original Physical Context:

The original property owner was Columbia University, and this monolithic ownership by Columbia University had preserved the low-level residential scale.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The GE Building is a steel-frame skyscraper building with masonry cladding exterior curtain wall. It is 10th tallest building in New York City and 33rd tallest in the United States.
The setbacks at the sides of the slab of the GE Building are there not only for aesthetic reason, but also to decrease the number of elevator shafts on the upper floors. In addition, new high speed elevators had just become legal, the architects were able to save about 30,000 square feet reducing the number of elevators. The arrangement at the building provided more than two million square feet of prime office space, distinguishing it for years as the world's largest office building in floor area.
Since the original tenant was the Radio Group, there was soundproofing needed for the building. "In order to ensure soundproofing all the studios were designed with "floating" walls, floors and ceilings suspended and insulated from the building's structural frame."
The architects and managers, especially John R. Todd, set 27 and a half foot principle, which left no more than 27 and a half feet between windows and service areas. The exterior of the building was cut back to the dimensions exacted by this principle, leaving the upper parts unusally slender.
It is noteworthy that its limestone cladding was 8 inch thick from base to the top, which was thicker than 12 inch that was advised by the building code of the time, and it was the first building which cladding was not tapered to the top.

Social:

Rockefeller Center was the only large, non-government architectural project executed between the Great Depression and the Second World War. It not only employed thousands of workers during the Depression, but restored the commerce and image of New York before the economic downturn. The RCA building represented the ideal modern skyscraper in its own metropolis, Rockefeller Center. The influence of the center was great by providing open space to the public as a form of palza, garden and promenade.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The two-story base conciliates between the tall skyscraper and the human-scale plaza and streets. Carefully chosen setbacks give it two very distinctive characteristics. From east or west, the building looks tall and slender, which is visible in its entirety from Fifth Avenue down the Channel Gardens. From north or south, the setbacks are less visible, and give the impression of a tall, broad, flat slab. With its rhythmic setbacks expressing the Cubism, the building was a "hymn to modernity, to a sunny future, to all the scientific wonders that the 20th century encompassed." In style, the building was largely dependent upon Beaux Arts principles of design, but modified by specific tenant needs and the requirement for maximum profit which was desired by John R. Todd, the developer. Its exterior and interior decorations including murals, paintings, mosaic and sculptures are magnificant.
Historical:

The GE Building was the last skyscraper designed by Raymond Hood before his death at age 53. Also, it represented the beginning of the new slab aesthetic that would consequently characterize modern commercial architecture in the Art Deco style. It has served as the prototype for numerous commercial developments worldwide.
According to Le Corbusier, "it is rational, logically conceived, biologically normal, harmonious in its four functional elements: halls for the entrance and division of crowds, grouped shafts for vertical criculation, corridors, regular office." (Bacon, Mardges. Le Corbusier in America: Travels in the Land of the Timid. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2001. 265. Print.)
In his book Space Time and Architecture, Sigfried Giedion pointed out that until construction of RCA Building, skyscrapers in New York City "lacked scale, dignity, and strength, becoming simply towers rising to extreme heights" whitout careful consideration of their surroundings. RCA Building emerged as the new form of the skyscraper following its immediate forerunner Daily Mail Building in New York. (Giedion, Sigfried. "The Civic Center: Rockefeller Center, 1931-39." Space Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2008. 847-48. Print.)
In the early 1930s, Lewis Mumford, well known for his study of urban architecture, condemn the Rockefeller Center for its cultural, esthetic, and urban deficiencies as "mediocrity seen thugh a magnifying glass." Also, according to William Jordy, "the mass destruction of blocks of old structures in order to build a compeletly new fabric, however warranted for the Center, has provided a disatrous precedent for other renewal situations. (Pierson, William H., and William H. Jordy. "Rockefeller Center and Corporate Urbanism." American Buildings and Their Architects. New York Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986. 84-85. Print.)
Nevertheless, Rockefeller Center beat the other massive redevelopment "visually, urbanistically, and even theoretically." The center provided the sense of place which its successors could not achieve.

General Assessment:
The RCA Building, now the GE Building, is the largest and most important building of Rockefeller Center. The building is a masterpiece of the Art Deco style which anchors the urban composition of Rockefeller Center, one of the most successful urban spaces in New York City. Its unique shape was derived from carefu consideration of prevailing factors such as interior lighting, use, service requirements, and visual value, which lacked in the previous New York skyscrapers. Although it has never been the tallest building neither in New York City nor in the world, it was the most successful monumental skyscraper to be built in America.
Documentation
Text references:

Rockefeller Center: a Digest of Facts. Ed. Rockefeller Center, Inc. New York: Public Relations Dept., Rockefeller Center, 1979. 15. Print., Krinsky, Carol Herselle. Rockefeller Center. New York: Oxford UP, 1978. 131-32. Print., Adams, Janet, and Marjorie Pearson. "RCA Building." Rockefeller Center Designation Report. [New York]: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1985. 9, 61, 62, 67, 70. Print.,"Guide to Rockefeller Center," RCW, 2 (May 23, 1935), insert 8., Krinsky, Carol Herselle. "The RCA Building." Rockefeller Center. New York: Oxford UP, 1978. 136-37. Print., New York Architecture, comp. "GE Building, Originally RCA Building." New York Architecture. New York Architecture. Web. ., Garrard, Lowe David., and Sylvia Warren. "The Rockefellers' Center." Art Deco New York. New York: Watson-Guptill Publ., 2004. 172. Print., Douglas, George H. "Rockefeller Center: A Festival of Skyscrapers." Skyscrapers: a Social History of the Very Tall Building in America. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland, 2004. 128-38. Print., Bacon, Mardges. Le Corbusier in America: Travels in the Land of the Timid. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2001. 264-65. Print., Giedion, Sigfried. "The Civic Center: Rockefeller Center, 1931-39." Space Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2008. 847-48. Print., Pierson, William H., and William H. Jordy. "Rockefeller Center and Corporate Urbanism." American Buildings and Their Architects. New York Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986. 84-85. Print., Lehman, Arnold L. "Rockefeller Center: And Investment In Urban Design." The New York Skyscraper a History of Its Development, 1870-1939. [New Haven, Conn.]: Yale University, 1974. 447. Print.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Myun Song/ Feb.13.2011
Additional Images
GE Building
The GE Building, Source: Myun Song, date: Feb. 6. 2011
GE Building
The GE Building, Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:GE_Building.jpg, date: 19. Oct. 2005

United Nations Secretariat

Added by Christine Huh, last update: August 17, 2012, 12:53 pm

United Nations Secretariat
The UN complex as seen from the East River, source: UN Photo/Mark Garten, date: September 30, 2005
Location
First Avenue at 42nd Street
New York City, NY 10017
United States
40° 44' 55.7304" N, 73° 58' 10.7724" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Administration (ADM)
Secondary classification: Urbanism (URB)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

The United Nations Headquarters is is an International Territory.

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Office of the Secretariat of the United Nations

Dates: Commission / Completion:1947/ 1952
Architectural and other Designer(s): United Nations Board of Design; Wallace K. Harrison (United States: chief architect); Nikolai D. Bassov (Soviet Union), Gaston Brunfaut (Belgium), Ernest Cormier (Canada), Charles E. Le Corbusier (France), Liang Seu-Cheng (China), Sven Markelius (Sweden), Oscar Niemayer (Brazil), Howard Robertson (United Kingdom), G. A. Soilleux (Australia) and Julio Vilamajo (Uruguay).
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): The Secretariat had barely had alterations due to the tight budget of the United Nations. In June 1981, a two-story annex building was added at the southeast corner of the secretariat, but the interior of the Secretariat was not greatly affected from it. The first renovation of the Secretariat building – renovation of the United Nations Headquarters - began in early 2008. The core construction refurbish program includes installation of a full sprinkler system and a complete fire alarm system; replacement of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; upgrading of electrical wiring and panels; replacement of lighting and ceilings; removal of asbestos; restoration of damaged finishes; consolidation and modernization of data-distribution systems; and improvements in signage, doors, bathrooms and elevators to provide better accessibility for all persons. In the Secretariat building, the major equipment on the 28th floor which generates electromagnetic fields will be removed.
Current Use: Office of the Secretariat of the United Nations
Current Condition: Following surveys conducted between 1998 and 1999 - reporting asbestos insulation, lead paint, outmoded plumbing and electrical systems, lack of sprinklers, frequent power shutdowns and a deteriorated and leaking roof - the overall building complex has begun extensive rehabilitation through the UN Capital Master Plan. The project includes replacement of the Secetariat's curtain wall with a new insulated glazing system, following the profiles of the original, and restoring the exterior's original quality of transparency.
General Description:

(Site) The United Nations Headquarters is located on seventeen and a half acres, bounded by the East River, 42nd Street, First Avenue, and 48th Street. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, an expressway, goes along the river edge, so part of the buildings is cantilevered over it. Despite its rights of extra-territoriality, New York City provides many facilities to the United Nations Headquarters such as sewer connections, access from city streets, and fire protection. There is the General Assembly building, the Conference Building, and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, the annex, and the Secretariat building in the United Nations Headquarters.

(Exterior) The Secretariat is 544 feet high, 287 feet wide and 72 feet thick with 5,400 operable windows and 5,400 glass spandrel. The exterior materials are aluminum, glass and marble. Conventional set-backs protect the wide areas of green-tinted glass on the east and the west facade from being breaking. The windowless north and south facades of the building are faced with 2,000 tons of Vermont marble. The Secretariat has 39 stories above the ground, and three basement level which link with those of the Conference Building.

(Interior) In the mid-20th century, offices of the Secretariat were small with no wasted space while some modern conveniences were offered so that the staffs function well. The glass in the aluminum-framed windows, can bring a maximum amount of natural light to the office space (20 acres), and is designed to retain solar heat. The air-conditioning system is provided for the whole building. Steel partitions attaching to brackets of the structure, can be moved quickly and easily to provide for office spaces. Telephone, electric and signaling connections are placed in ducts beneath the floors at six-foot intervals. Electric dumb-waiters and conveyors are in an integrated system, and efficiently move documents and mail all over the building. In the basement, there are maintenance shops, a fire-fighting unit, receiving and loading platforms, a pouch dispatch unit, security offices, storage, a three-level garage, an automobile service station, and a refrigeration plant for air-conditioning.

Construction Period:

Reinforced concrete, glass curtain wall, aluminum, and marble exterior

Original Physical Context:

The slab form of the Secretariat can be understood in the context of an evolution of Le Corbusier’s solid-edged slab building. His design of the Pavilion Suisse (1832) in Paris and the Ministry of Education and Health Building (1938), which he designed in collaboration with Oscar Niemeyer, in Rio de Janeiro can be considered the predecessors. Even though Mies van der Rohe did not join the the Design of the Secretariat, the design of the Secretariat seems influenced Mies van der Rohe’s post World War I glass skyscraper projects. Glass which is used for the Secretariat, is less transparent but retaining reflection like a mirror. This design was first made by Mies long before. The slab was an esthetic element of the International Style, and it stimulated the emergence of glass curtain-wall buildings in New York. For Americans, Internationalism was the symbol of postwar prosperity; for Europe it meant an opportunity for reconstruction and for developing, the countries it represented as hopes for a brighter future.
The UN complex was a successfully realized, piece of interwar-era Modernist architecture and urban design. Built out over the FDR Drive, the plaza looks more like an aircraft carrier moored along the East River than part of the city’s fabric. As a symbol, the UN the complex oddly glorifies its bureaucracy by making the offices of the 14,000 international civil servants its focus, rather than the General Assembly, which lurks, blind-walled and Nautilus-like, at its base.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

In the mid 20th century, the buildings in the United Nations Headquarters were delicate works of construction engineering and integrated communications technology. As an early use of the curtain wall system for the high-rise building, the Secretariat’s curtain walls helped set a standard for skyscrapers. The reason for the selection of blue-green-toned Thermopane windows for the east and west facades was that they lessened the heating effect of the sun. The handling of the mechanical ventilation in pipe galleries at the 6th, 16th, 28th and 39th was an impressive construction detail. The window walls were cantilevered 2’9” beyond the structural steel columns in order to attain the effect of continuous glazing. The Thermopane glass was combined with Venetian blinds and a year-round air –conditioning system to provide brightly lit, office space. The spandrels between window bands were of the same glass, but with the inner face of each panel painted black. Inside, the offices represented a high degree of integration as well, with movable modular metal partitions and a perforated metal pan ceiling that incorporated four-foot-long, three tube troffer fluorescent light fixtures combined with square air-handling diffusers. However, the interior design of the Secretariat was considered to be merely a conventional job.

Social:

The United Nations is an international organization which is aimed to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress and human rights issues. Thus the fact that it is headquartered in New York City has a great symbolic and geographical significance. As the world’s capital, New York has escalated the status and its influence as an international city. Multinational corporations now had to consider whether their headquarters should be alongside this center of global influence.
The United Nations Secretariat is the bureaucratic organ which supplies studies, information, and facilities which the United Nations bodies need. It also conducts tasks which are directed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, etc. The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, and international civil servants worldwide assist with the tasks. The United Nation would not operate without the Secretariat.
The United Nations Headquarters have stimulated the regional economy and elevated the land value. A number of workers of the Secretariat have contributed to the stimulator of the regional economy of New York City. In addition, the United Nations headquarters attracts numerous tourists from all over the world, and tourism has lifted the regional economy and the value of neighboring area.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Le Corbusier’s scheme of the United Nations Headquarters was to construct an entirely isolated city. The extreme monumentality has been a subject of controversy. In spite of the fact that it has the smallest footprint among the buildings in United Nations Headquarters sites, the Secretariat visually dominates the group completely with its height and exterior materials. The Secretariat building has consequently become the characteristic form of the office building in American architecture, and it is in the technique of office building that our greatest advances have been made. It is somehow fitting that the Secretariat should become the symbol of the U.N.
Historical:

Even though the Secretariat Building was not the first manifestation of international architecture, it stimulated the emergence of mass-production of high-rise buildings with glass-wall international style in the New York City and the world. The Secretariat, one of the first glass curtain-wall slabs in New York became the visual symbol of postwar architecture throughout the world. It contributed to popularizing the International Style as a postwar doctrine and universal design.
Nonetheless, the erection of the Secretariat definitely stimulated the emergence of corporate style skyscrapers in New York City. There have been lots of different opinions on the status of the Secretariat Building in the modernism architecture movement. Some opinion claimed that the architectural expression of the Secretariat Building was rather base on conventional practice. In addition, the construction of the UN headquarters implies the United States’ contribution to the modern building. Even though the concept of the Secretariat came from Le Corbusier, most of detail design and construction was conducted by Americans led by Harrison.

General Assessment:
Although it has been controversial building, the Secretariat has provided a monumental symbol for the UN and shows the ideal and innovation of building technology in the mid-20th Century. It is a fine example of the free-hanging glass and metal curtain wall. It strongly demonstrated the power of technology of controlling climate in the mid-20th century; it showed that international collaboration among architects and other professional was possible. By offering a monumental symbol for the UN, the Secretariat had given modern architecture an aura of respectability, and association with world-wide prestige. The Secretariat, the first glass curtain-wall slab in New York became the visual symbol of postwar architecture throughout the world. Americans and Europeans had tendency to take internationalism as the beginning of a new era.
Documentation
Text references:

Stern, Robert A.M., Mellins, Thomas, and Fishman, David (1995), New York 1960: architecture and urbanism between the Second War and the Bicentennial, New York: Monacelli Press.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Christine Huh/ March 6, 2008
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