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Thread: Renovation of the UN - by Fumihiko Maki with S.O.M.

  1. #1

    Default Renovation of the UN - by Fumihiko Maki with S.O.M.

    August 21, 2003

    An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    By FRED A. BERNSTEIN

    A LITTLE more than 50 years ago, the United Nations brought together some of the world's most prominent architects, including Le Corbusier and Oscar Neimeyer, to design its headquarters on the East River. The result is a Modernist icon.

    Now the United Nations needs more space, and it has once again turned to some of the world's most prominent architects. The United Nations Development Corporation, an agency created by New York City and State, is narrowing the field in an elite competition to design a 900,000-square-foot building.

    Earlier this year, Roy Goodman, the former state senator who heads the development corporation, wrote to all 23 living winners of the Pritzker Prize, which is considered architecture's highest honor. The laureates include Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and the nonagenarians Philip Johnson and Mr. Neimeyer. Mr. Goodman invited them to compete to design a building on First Avenue at 42nd Street, just south of the existing United Nations complex.

    Several of the architects, including Robert Venturi, I. M. Pei and Mr. Gehry, decided not to compete, they or their spokesmen said. Others wanted to, but were eliminated early in the summer. Mr. Johnson's design partner, Alan Ritchie, said: "We wrote a letter, saying we were interested, and enclosed a brochure of our work. We got a `Thanks but no thanks' letter."

    Joshua Ramus, a New York-based partner of Mr. Koolhaas, said that he submitted a statement of interest, but that "we weren't selected."

    That left four architects in the running: Richard Meier of New York, Fumihiko Maki of Tokyo, Norman Foster of London and Kevin Roche of Hamden, Conn. All are known for creating sleek Modernist buildings.

    Mr. Venturi said by telephone from Switzerland that he assumed his lack of experience with skyscrapers would have hurt his chances. His wife and design partner, Denise Scott Brown, added: "You get attached to what you design, and then you're terribly disappointed."

    Told who the four finalists were, Ms. Scott Brown said: "We made the right decision. If they want those people, they wouldn't want us."

    Employees of Mr. Roche and Mr. Foster said they were not at liberty to discuss the competition. The development corporation referred calls to Janel Patterson, a spokeswoman for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, who said she could not comment. But Mr. Maki and Mr. Meier said they were working on designs, which are to be be reviewed in early October.

    "It won't be easy to accommodate 900,000 square feet of office and conference space on the site," said Mr. Maki, who is best known for museums in Japan and a cultural center in San Francisco. "But architects are an optimistic species."

    The United Nations site is now occupied by the Robert Moses Playground and a bulky air vent for the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. And some members of the community object to the loss of the playground. But Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a director of the United Nations Development Corporation, predicted that a proposed land swap would give the community a park far superior to the current one, because "there will be less carbon monoxide."

    That, however, will not solve the problem for the four architects. Mr. Meier, who has designed a pair of new apartment buildings in the West Village but is best known for the Getty Center, his modern acropolis in Los Angeles, said he had considered talking to Mr. Maki, Mr. Roche and Mr. Foster about proposing an alternate site. But he said that the United Nations had not encouraged contact among the architects. "They've gone out of their way to keep each of us in our own stable," he said, adding that each architect had toured the site separately.

    The new building would allow the United Nations to consolidate its staff. Occupants of the 50-year-old Secretariat building would move into the new one while the Secretariat undergoes a badly needed renovation. Later, United Nations offices in a variety of buildings in Midtown would move to the new tower.

    Mr. Meier enters the competition with some trepidation. "The energy that goes into the process is enormous, and it's all on our part," he said. "And who knows what they're going to do?"


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    The finalists are all great.

    Richard Meier of New York, Fumihiko Maki of Tokyo, Norman Foster of London and Kevin Roche of Hamden, Conn. All are known for creating sleek Modernist buildings.
    I have high-hopes, and expect the best entry to win.

  3. #3
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    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    Given the size of that lot, what is the shortest building that could be put up and conform to the 900,000 sqft requirement? *Anyone know? *I am trying to prepare myself for disappointment in the height. *Very excited about the prospect of getting a Foster or another Meier building in the city!

  4. #4
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    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    A previous article mentioned 35 floors, so probably around the height of the current Secretariat.

  5. #5

    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    Here is the older thread on UN expansion.


    The view of East Side of Manhattan from Queens West, with UN Secretariat Building and the Con Ed site to the south. Developers envision a mixed-use project of office and residential towers, with shops, parks and other recreational spaces.


  6. #6

    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    A chance to enhance the East Midtown skyline while complementing the UN complex. (I decided to create a new thread since the old one focuses on the NIMBY reaction.)

  7. #7
    Senior Member DougGold's Avatar
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    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    Which object in that photo is the "bulky air vent for the Queens-Midtown tunnel"? Is it visible?

  8. #8
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    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    It's either the tan-brick building slightly right of center, or the tan-brick building on the far left of the photo.

  9. #9

    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    Quote: from Stern on 10:52 am on Aug. 21, 2003
    The finalists are all great.

    Richard Meier of New York, Fumihiko Maki of Tokyo, Norman Foster of London and Kevin Roche of Hamden, Conn. All are known for creating sleek Modernist buildings.
    I have high-hopes, and expect the best entry to win.

    I work in advertising and have learned to always expect the worst, most uninteresting, "safest" idea to be chosen by any client... especially the bigger, more "important" clients. Maybe Kofi Annan will have some say. I'd expect him to maybe have good taste.

  10. #10

    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    Yeah hopefully.

  11. #11

    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    The United Nations decision to build the World's first glass wall skyscraper on the eastriver provides good precedent. Their decision to invite only Pritzker Prize winners to a private competition provides more precedent. Besides you cant go wrong with the architects choosen. I have high-hopes.


    I work in advertising and have learned to always expect the worst, most uninteresting, "safest" idea to be chosen by any client... especially the bigger, more "important" clients. Maybe Kofi Annan will have some say. I'd expect him to maybe have good taste.

  12. #12

    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    Is this land they wish to build on already owned by the UN? If it isn't then they will own even more NYC real estate, which I believe they are not taxed on.

    I read it was a playground and all, but this isn't owned by the UN is it?

    Also, if the UN is forced to keep just that small parcel of land they already have that would force them to build taller! Another question, I know I'm asking too many but, does the city get any profit from the UN building there or is it just the land sale?

    (Edited by Freedom Tower at 9:24 pm on Aug. 21, 2003)

  13. #13

    Default An Elite Contest for a Growing U.N.

    I'm UNsure of anything good until I see it, the seat of "World Government" better find a new HQ suitable for being noteworthy on a world scale!

  14. #14

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    February 14, 2004

    Japanese Architect Wins U.N. Competition

    By JULIE V. IOVINE

    Fumihiko Maki, a Japanese architect known for classical modern designs executed with a craftsman-like approach to technology, has won the competition to design an additional building for the United Nations.

    His selection was reported Tuesday by The New York Sun. Officials at the United Nations Development Corporation, which develops and manages the organization's office space, said a formal announcement is not expected until late this month.

    Mr. Maki said by phone yesterday that he admired the slender silhouette of the United Nations Secretariat building. "The thin slab is something quite unique because in America office buildings tend to be large and squarish," said Mr. Maki, who has also been chosen to design the new office buildings at the World Trade Center site.

    Construction of the United Nations building, on First Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets, will allow the current complex, just north of the site, to be expanded and renovated.

    The proposed design is "glassy, white and sheer but elegant," said Edward Rubin, a member of the selection jury and chairman of the land-use committee of Community Board 6, which represents the neighborhood that includes the United Nations complex. Mr. Maki and his firm, Maki & Associates, will be working in partnership with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on the 35-story building, which is expected to cost about $330 million and be completed by 2008.

    The United Nations complex, completed in 1952, now needs both expansion and renovation, including the removal of asbestos and lead paint. Once the new, 900,000-square-foot building is completed, it will be used by the General Assembly, the Secretariat and their staffs. They will move back when the renovation is complete; the new building will then house United Nations employees now working at other Midtown locations.

    The Robert Moses Playground and a ventilation shaft for the Queens-Midtown Tunnel are now located on the development site. Community Board 6 supports the development as long as the United Nations replaces parts of the 1.3-acre playground that will be lost, Mr. Rubin said. At risk are a soccer field and a blacktopped surface where a roller hockey league has played for more than 20 years.

    The United Nations has agreed to pay for a $100,000 esplanade on the East River, said Michael Sherman, a spokesman for the development corporation.

    But paths for strolling are not the same as playing fields, said Mr. Rubin. "We take our active space very seriously,'' he said. "We want a suitable replacement and we want it as close to the existing Robert Moses park as possible.''

    The competition was open only to winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest honor in the profession. The other contestants were Kevin Roche of Hamden, Conn., and Lord Norman Foster of London. Richard Meier, a New York architect, withdrew from the competition last summer. "I told them it's the wrong site," he said. "All the requirements for size, traffic, security, access - everything cannot be met on that site."

    The selection of Mr. Maki suggests an effort to honor the original building's reputation as an icon of International Style modernism. Mr. Maki's approach to building combines subdued refinements with technological flourishes, as seen in the swooping steel roof of the Fujisawa Municipal Gymnasium in suburban Tokyo, which suggests both an ancient warrior helmet and a hovering spaceship.

    Mr. Maki said, "The U.N. reminded us that whatever we did we had to respect the existing building and not make an addition that is too aggressive or too iconographic, but rather friendly and quiet."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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