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Nova Iorque | Sede da Nacoes Unidas | Oscar Niemeyer e Le Corbusier


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Espantoso, só se fôr pela imponência, porque de resto não me parece nada de tão espantoso que nunca se tenha visto. Para o edificio que é teria mesmo de se optar pela imponência, mas não achei o desenho atractivo.

Ok. Hoje em dia qualquer um faz um edificio igual a este. Mas foi concebido em 1952.
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Streetscapes | The United Nations

One Among Many Ideas for the U.N. Site

Avery Architectural Library, from "New York 1960," by Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman (Monacelli, 1997)

A 1946 proposal for the United Nations shows a loaf-shape assembly hall topped by two towers.


Published: April 21, 2010

Secretary-General Trygve Lie and Wallace K. Harrison, chief architect, laying the cornerstone in 1949.

It is hard to imagine the city without this iconic glassy slab, but it was only one of a dozen postwar proposals for replacing the old slaughterhouse district. Suggestions ranged from a heliport to a concert hall.

Like other low areas along the East River, the site of the United Nations was at first prized for industry. By the 1910s it was the home of slaughterhouses, the Eberhard Faber pencil factory, and, right at 42nd Street, the New Amsterdam Gas Company.

In the 1920s, elite development along the East River overtook Beekman and Sutton Places, and in 1925 the architects Sloan & Robertson published a plan for a blocklong development with a residential tower and yacht club landing, apparently on part of what became the United Nations site. But in that period, such a wide swath was too difficult for a single developer to undertake.

Then, in 1946 the ebullient, big-thinking developer William Zeckendorf came along, and in a burst of postwar enthusiasm, assembled most of the land between First Avenue and the East River from 42nd to 49th Street. Mr. Zeckendorf never made little plans, and for this site he envisioned X-City, a megaproject unlike anything that had yet been seen in Manhattan’s private sector.

Along the river he placed a complicated arrangement of 40-story office buildings, 30-story apartments, and paired 57-story structures, one an office tower and the other a hotel. Between the tallest pair of buildings was a spherical concert and opera complex; renderings make it look like a basketball between seven-foot players.

To highlight the project at night, an array of spotlights were to be beamed heavenward, great glowing shafts disappearing into the sky — an eerie prefiguration of the annual Tribute in Light memorial near the site of the World Trade Center.

Mr. Zeckendorf’s architect was Wallace K. Harrison, one of the key architects of Rockefeller Center; the developer may well have considered the Rockefeller connection one of his qualifications. Larger even than Rockefeller Center, the project was a too-tall order for financing in postwar New York, or perhaps for any time in the history of the city. Mr. Zeckendorf had a wonderful plot of land, but no means to build on it.

At the same time that Mr. Zeckendorf was buying land and commissioning futuristic drawings, the new United Nations was casting about for a headquarters site somewhere in the United States. However logical a choice it might now seem, New York was also crowded, expensive and distracting; the United Nations would wind up being a big fish in a pond of bigger fish.

Philadelphia seemed likely, but in late 1946 John D. Rockefeller Jr. stepped in and took an option on Mr. Zeckendorf’s site for $8.5 million, intending to donate it to the United Nations.

To inspire the site selection board to think East River instead of Schuylkill, Mr. Zeckendorf had Mr. Harrison tweak his X-City plans to include a low curved assembly hall straddled by both towers at ground level. It resembled two men riding a turtle.

The United Nations board, persuaded by the free land and a strong New York faction, decided in the city’s favor, although it discarded Zeckendorf’s design: Even for a world body, his plan was too big. Mr. Harrison supervised a committee of invited architects from various countries who contributed ideas for the essential assignment, an office building with an assembly hall.

For the assembly building a Soviet designer, Nikolai Bassov, presented an ominous, boxy shape worthy of Lenin’s tomb. Perhaps anticipating diplomats from other universes, the French architect Le Corbusier developed a design for a central open-air entrance covered by a curving hangarlike roof that looked like the landing bay of a giant space station. The Brazilian Oscar Niemeyer envisioned a Spartan collection of shapes, not unlike his utopian design for Brasilia, built in the next decade.

In the end Mr. Harrison deftly oversaw the synthesis of many ideas without great rancor, although the testy Corbu went away mad that his genius had been underrecognized.

While Mr. Harrison’s group of architects were uniting, others sought to integrate the United Nations into the larger city. Mr. Zeckendorf had the idea of ripping out six square blocks between Third and First Avenues, from 46th to 49th Street, to create a magnificent approach to the new complex. The wide boulevard, flanked by a procession of 12 slabs of varying sizes for offices, concert halls and apartments, would lead to the river and, at the end, a cable-stayed steel tower, perhaps 600 feet high.

The American Institute of Architects proposed something similar, but all the way over to Lexington.

These projects would have rivaled or exceeded both the United Nations and Lincoln Center in scope. But each also was a vision too far, requiring acquisition by eminent domain and the eviction of thousands of voters. In the end, only the south side of 47th Street, from Second to First, was cleared for a cold, lumpy porridge of a park, much better than nothing but still a leftover. The many alternative designs for the United Nations site read like a lost history of midcentury architecture

In 1950 the United Nations began moving in, with the optimism of a fresh white shirt, a vision of how both the city and the world could look. But in the last half century much of that has worn off. The fortified aspect of the place is emblematic, its high civic ideals lost in the menacing character of high fences, metal detectors and concrete bollards.

Too, there is nothing left of the ambitions of William Zeckendorf; without his implausible visions, it seems likely the United Nations would not be here — noble goals, scofflaw diplomats and all.

E-mail: streetscapes@nytimes.com

in http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/realestate/25streets.html?scp=4&sq=&st=nyt

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