UNESCO, Headquarters (Porte Maillot)

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Project Type

Paris France


Breuer, Marcel
Fenyoe, Maria

UNESCO, Headquarters (Porte Maillot)

View of Illuminated Model from Above

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View of Illuminated Model from Above

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Perspective Rendering

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In 1952, a UNESCO advisory committee rejected Eugène Beaudouin's original design for the organization's headquarters. That same year a new site and a new design team were chosen. The designers, known as "The Three" consisted of Breuer, Bernard Zehrfuss and the structural engineer, Pier Luigi Nervi. Eero Saarinen served as a consultant and a group of advisors, "The Five," was headed by Walter Gropius. The other members of "The Five" included Le Corbusier, Lucio Costa, Sven Markelius, and Ernesto Rogers. Breuer and his colleagues envisioned a linear arrangement of three buildings for a site adjacent to Porte Maillot. The Secretariat was a seventeen-story building raised on V-shaped supports. The corners of the thin, wide building revealed the concrete framework and contrasted with the pattern created by the windows and sunshades. Nervi designed a striking canopy covering the lobby in the shape of a wide, parabolic shell. On the other side, a bridge, also supported by V-shaped supports, led to the two-story Conference Building. An elevated corridor led to the final building, an auditorium and outdoor amphitheater to be used for UNESCO's biannual plenary session. The Paris building committee rejected the design even before UNESCO could vote on the matter. The modernity of the design, along with the height of the Secretariat, which would block views of the Arc de Triomphe, led the French government to request a third design, this time for the original site near the Beaux-Arts École Militaire.