After the first World War ended with the Treaty of Versailles, the victors sought to create an institution that would promote dialogue and peace after several centuries of continual wars between the competing communities of Europe and Asia. Their goal was to avoid WW II. Unfortunately, the League of Nations was a flawed institution and soon after the Treaty, World War II quickly ensued. After the failure of the League of Nations, Churchill, Roosevelt and other allied leaders determined that a more thoughtful, new organization was needed to avoid WW III. Over its 75 years, the UN has proven to be a significant architectural and political success, although often criticized by many countries as slow and ineffective. Although not visible, the incredible success of the UN is demonstrated by the absence of WW III.
Each year the issues brought to the UN by its members become more complex and the demands on the facilities and funding of the organization becomes more demanding. After decades of wear and tear with technological, cultural and political change, the UN needed a complete restructuring. In 2005 the United Nations initiated a multi‐year $2 billion renovation of its headquarters, the Capital Master Plan (CMP). This was the first complete renovation program for the UN campus since it was built. There were several drivers of the CMP including upgrading security protections, bringing the campus into fire, accessibility and safety code compliance, and installing state of the art IT and mechanical infrastructure. The facilities also needed a complete rethinking to accommodate a world of 193 nations in a compound built for 50 nations. Most importantly, the UN needed to become a role model for the existential threat to human life: Climate Change. Within the range of the project’s numerous sustainability initiatives, one of the most fundamental was the decision to renovate the existing buildings, as opposed to demolishing the complex in favor of new construction.
The UN Complex in New York is the most recognizable “Modern” building in the world, designed by an international team of a dozen celebrity architects including Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer and Wally Harrison. This presentation will focus on the UN buildings, the goals and ambitions of its designers and founders and the highlights of our restoration project, the Capital Master Plan for a sustainable retrofit. It will focus on the design and planning history of the UN, the various changes in its eight decades of use, the need for an upgrade and the preparation and execution of the renovation. It will also explore the safety, security and sustainability goals considering preservation challenges, a demanding timeline and concurrent curation of the UN art collection. The knowledge shared in this program shall serve to advocate for the maintenance, rehabilitation, and adaptive reuse of existing buildings and complexes as foundational to a more sustainable environment.
Michael Alderstein, FAIA, Adjunct Professor, Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation
Danei Cesario, AIA, RIBA, NCARB, NOMA, Architect + Project Manager, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM); Founder, WALLEN + daub
Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, DPACSA, NOMA, President and founding Board Member, Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization
About the speakers:
In 2007, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Mr. Adlerstein as the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for the $2 billion renovation of the UN Headquarters in New York, the Capital Master Plan. The major goals of the project were to improve sustainability, enhance blast security, and to incorporate state of the art technology into the preservation of the iconic historic compound. To achieve this, over 10,000 staff including dozens of high-level officials, a major data centre, the General Assembly Hall and 18 other major conference rooms were moved out of the compound to swing space and then back, in several phases. The project was completed in 2015, on schedule and within 4% of its original budget.
Previously, Mr. Adlerstein served as the Chief Historical Architect for the National Park Service and was the Project Director for the restoration of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and managed many complex partnership projects, including Gettysburg, Valley Forge, Acadia and Jamestown. He participated with the US State Department on many international preservation consultancies including the Taj Majal in India. He currently teaches Sustainable Retrofits at Columbia University.
Danei Cesario is the 333rd Black woman in American history to earn her architectural license. She is an internationally licensed architect, project manager, and public speaker. Danei is a Project Manager at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), overseeing dynamic mixed-use development and healthcare projects. Her passion for architecture and advocacy has led Danei to become a champion for design professionals and a sought-after speaker. Her diverse experiences in healthcare, equity and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) paired with working in global environments have yielded speaking engagements at numerous national and international conferences and private sector events, including the United Nations, SXSW, Royal Institute of British Architects, AIA National Conference and the New York Building Congress.
Danei served as chair of AIA New York’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee for over five years. Currently, she serves on the AIA New York State Board (representing nearly 10,000 members across 13 chapters), the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization and the AIA New York Nominating Committee. She is an ambassador to organizations vested in equity, diversity and inclusion including Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and nycobaNOMA Executive Board. Danei is dedicated to fostering mentorship, sponsorship and leadership within the design community. She founded WALLEN + daub to expand on these principles.
Lance Jay Brown is President and founding Board Member of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (UN NGO). Born in Brooklyn, Brown previously taught at Princeton, was educated at the Cooper Union and holds two master’s degrees from the GSD at Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) and former Chair and Director of the Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York.
He was the 2014 President of the AIA New York Chapter, holds the title of Distinguished Professor for Life Emeritus from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), and received the coveted AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. He was the co-founder of the AIA Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee. He has been a UN-HABITAT III Policy Unit 8 member and 2016 Quito presenter. Prof. Brown was a two-term Board Member of the Beverly Willis Architectural Foundation and is a founding Advisory Board Member of the NYC Architecture Biennial. He has edited and authored numerous books and consults, teaches, and lectures nationally and internationally.
Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization and UN Habitat