Stories from the UN Archive: Dawn at UN Headquarters

Stories from the UN Archive: Dawn at UN Headquarters

In 1951, the UN Secretariat opened for business. The slender 39-storey office tower has become the iconic symbol of the United Nations, so we dove into our archives for a look at the world’s meeting place that has grown alongside New York’s ever-changing skyline over the past seven decades.

With its green glass and Vermont marble shimmering in the sunlight and the water of the East River, the building’s modern aesthetic was an intentional decision by the collaborating architects to symbolize change, embodying a sense of newness that sheds light on the optimistic future of the world’s nations working together as one collective body. It was the first major "international style" building constructed in New York.

Secretariat Building at United Nations Headquarters.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Secretariat Building at United Nations Headquarters.

Since the UN Secretariat opened its doors, its membership climbed from 60 to its current 193 Member States, with South Sudan becoming in 2011 the latest to join, and the Holy See and the State of Palestine being recognized as permanent observer States.

All their flags are raised every morning, lacing the front of the UN campus.

Owned by the UN, the site of UN Headquarters has a special status within the US, and no federal, state or local officer or official of the host country may enter the campus without consent and under conditions agreed to by the Secretary-General.

Curating material from the archives, UN Video showcased imagery shot over several decades. Watch it here.

Catch up on our #ThrowbackThursday Stories from the UN Archive series here, and watch episodes from UN Video’s playlist here, cultivated from the UN Audiovisual Library’s 49,400 hours of video and 18,000 hours of audio recordings.

Join us next Thursday for another dive into history.

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