United Nations Headquarters
On-line Tour



List of Tour Sites:

Headquarters Site Flags
General Assembly Security Council
Economic and Social Council Trusteeship Council
Dag Hammarskjöld Library Foucault Pendulum
Chagall Stained-Glass Window Norman Rockwell Mosaic
Chinese Ivory Carving Japanese Peace Bell
Swords into Plowshares Sculpture Services to Visitors

NOTE: Click on any picture for more detail. 


HEADQUARTERS SITE
Welcome to the United Nations! The Headquarters of the World Organization is located on an 18-acre site on the East side of Manhattan. It is an international zone belonging to all Member States. The United Nations has its own security force, fire department and postal administration. Visitors from all over the world often like to send postcards back home with United Nations stamps - these stamps can only be mailed from the United Nations.

 The Headquarters consist of four main buildings: the General Assembly building, the Conference Building, the 39-floor Secretariat building, and the Dag Hammarskjold Library, which was added in 1961. The complex was designed by an international team of 11 architects, led by Wallace K. Harrison from the United States.

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FLAGS
The membership of the United Nations has grown from the original 51 Member States in 1945 to 188 members in 1999. Along First Avenue one can see the colourful display of flags of the Member States. Placed in English alphabetical order, the first flag at the level of 48th Street is Afghanistan, and the last one, by 42nd Street, is Zimbabwe.

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THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The General Assembly Hall is the largest room in the United Nations, with seating capacity for over 1,800 people. The design of the room was a collaborative effort by the team of 11 architects that designed Headquarters, and to emphasize the international character of the room it contains no gift from any Member State. The only gift in the General Assembly is anonymous: two abstract murals on each side of the Hall - designed by the French artist Fernand Leger - were given by an unnamed donor through the United Nations Association of the United States.

 The General Assembly Hall is the only conference room at the United Nations containing the UN emblem. The emblem consists of a map of the world, as seen from above the North Pole, flanked by olive wreaths as a symbol of peace.

 The General Assembly is the central organ. This is where all 188 Member States can gather to discuss the pressing problems of our times, most of which involve many countries or continents and therefore require international cooperation. The General Assembly is not a world government - its resolutions are not legally binding upon Member States. However, through its recommendations it can focus world attention on important issues, generate international cooperation and, in some cases, its decisions can lead to legally binding treaties and conventions.

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THE SECURITY COUNCIL

The Security Council Chamber was a gift from Norway, designed by the Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg.

 A central feature of the Security Council Chamber is the oil canvas mural painted by the Norwegian artist Per Krogh. It depicts a phoenix rising from its ashes, as a symbol of the world being rebuilt after the Second World War. Above the dark sinister colours at the bottom different images in bright colours symbolizing the hope for a better future are depicted. Equality is symbolized by a group of people weighing out grain for all to share.

 The blue and gold silk tapestry on the walls and in the draperies by the East River windows features the anchor of faith, the growing wheat of hope, and the heart of charity.

 The Charter gives the Security Council the main responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. As the "emergency room" of the UN, it has to be ready to meet at any time if there is a threat to peace.

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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
The Economic and Social Council Chamber was a gift from Sweden. It was conceived by the Swedish architect Sven Markelius, one of the 11 architects in the international team that designed the UN Headquarters. Swedish pine wood has been used around the delegates area, and for the railings and doors.

 A special feature of the room are the exposed pipes and ducts in the ceiling above the public gallery. The architect believed that anything useful could be left uncovered. The "unfinished" ceiling is commonly seen as a symbolic reminder that the economic and social work of the United Nations never finishes; there will always be something more that can be done to improve the living conditions of the world's people.

 The founders of the United Nations recognized that in order to have peace in the world, economic and social development and international cooperation was essential. The Charter gave the Economic and Social Council the task to work for economic and social progress and to promote universal respect for human rights. The Council coordinates the work of the United Nations system, which consists of over 30 programmes and specialized agencies.

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TRUSTEESHIP COUNCIL
The Trusteeship Council Chamber was a gift from Denmark to the United Nations. It was designed by Finn Juhl, a Danish architect, and all the furnishings come from Denmark. The walls are lined with ashwood for the purpose of enhancing the accoustics in the Chamber.

 The large wooden statue in the Trusteeship Council Chamber was a gift from Denmark, presented to the United Nations in June 1953 and made by a Danish artist by the name of Henrik Starcke. Carved from the trunk of a teakwood tree, the woman with her arms outstretched letting the bird fly free suggests "unlimited flight upwards to greater heights". In the context of the Trusteeship Council, it can be seen to symbolize the colonies achieving independence.

 The Trusteeship Council is the main organ that was given the task of supervising the administration of 11 trust territories until they achieved self-determination. With its task having been completed, the Council decided in 1994 to suspend its work and meet only when needed.

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DAG HAMMARSKJOLD LIBRARY
The Dag Hammarskjold Library was dedicated on 16 November 1961 in honour of the late Secretary-General. The Library building, a gift from the Ford Foundation, adjoins the Secretariat at the south-west corner of the Headquarters site.

The Dag Hammarskjold Library is intended primarily for the use of Secretariat staff, delegations to the United Nations, members of permanent missions and other official users.

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FOUCAULT PENDULUM
A prominent feature of the General Assembly Lobby is the Foucault pendulum, given by the Netherlands to the United Nations in 1955. The Foucault pendulum, named after the French physicist Jean Bernard Leon Foucault, gives visual proof of the rotation of the Earth.

 It consists of a gold-plated sphere, partly filled with copper, suspended from the ceiling 75 feet above by a stainless steel wire. A universal joint allows it to swing freely in any direction. An electromagnet under the pendulum counteracts the friction in the air, thus keeping the pendulum swinging uniformly. During the course of a day, the direction in which the pendulum swings appears to change due to the rotation of the Earth. It takes the sphere 36 hours and 45 minutes to complete its cycle.

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CHAGALL STAINED-GLASS WINDOW
In the Eastern side of the Public Lobby visitors can see a stained-glass window designed by the French artist Marc Chagall. It was a gift from United Nations staff members as well as Marc Chagall himself, presented in 1964 as a memorial to Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General of the UN, and fifteen other people who died with him in a plane crash in 1961.

 The memorial, which is about 15 feet wide and 12 feet high, contains several symbols of peace and love, such as the young child in the center being kissed by an angelic face which emerges from a mass of flowers. On the left, below and above motherhood and the people who are struggling for peace are depicted. Musical symbols in the panel evoke thoughts of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which was a favourite of Mr. Hammarskjöld's.

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NORMAN ROCKWELL MOSAIC
On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations in 1985, this mosaic was presented to the United Nations by Mrs. Nancy Reagan, the then First Lady, on behalf of the United States.

 It is based on a painting by the American artist Norman Rockwell called the Golden Rule. Rockwell wanted to illustrate how the Golden Rule was a common theme of all the major religions of the world, and depicted people of every race, creed and color with dignity and respect. The mosaic contains the inscription "Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do unto You". It was executed by Venetian artists specializing in mosaic works.

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CHINESE IVORY CARVING
This ivory carving is a gift from China presented to the United Nations in 1974. It depicts the Chengtu-Kunming railway, which was opened to traffic in 1970 and covers a distance of over 1,000 kilometers. The railway connects two Chinese provinces, Yunnan Province in the South and Szechuan Province in the North.

 The sculpture was carved from eight elephant tusks, and it is said that 98 people worked on it for more than two years. It is amazing for its detail - it is possible to see even tiny people carved inside the train.

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JAPANESE PEACE BELL
The Japanese Peace Bell was presented to the United Nations in June 1954 by the United Nations Association of Japan. It was cast from coins collected by children from 60 different countries, and housed in a typically Japanese structure, ressembling a Shinto shrine, made of cypress wood.

 It has become a tradition to ring the bell twice a year: on the first day of Spring, at the Vernal Equinox, and on the opening day of the General Assembly's yearly session in September.

 In 1994, there was a special ceremony marking the fortieth anniversary of the Japanese Bell. On that occasion, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said: "whenever it has sounded, this Japanese Peace Bell has sent a clear message. The message is addressed to all humanity. Peace is precious. It is not enough to yearn for peace. Peace requires work -- long, hard, difficult work."

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SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES SCULPTURE
The United Nations garden contains several sculptures and statues that have been donated by different countries. This one is called "Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares" and was a gift from the then Soviet Union presented in 1959. Made by Evgeniy Vuchetich, the bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing man's desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind.

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SERVICES TO VISITORS

 Guided tours of the United Nations operate daily from the General Assembly Public Lobby. An international staff explains the work of the United Nations and its related organizations, while taking visitors to some of the main Council Chambers and the General Assembly Hall. The tour also features art and other objects of interest donated by Member States.

 At the Public Inquiries Unit, located in the public concourse, visitors can obtain additional information materials relating to the United Nations and its agencies.

 The United Nations postal counter - where visitors can buy UN stamps - a UN book store, gift shops, and a coffee shop are also located in the public concourse.

For more information on services to the public, click here.

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Updated 23 February 2000

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