3XN's Green UN City


Photo by Adam Mørk

The eight-pointed star-shaped floor plan is symbolizing each UN unit working individually with clear roots in a mutual set of values.


Photo by Adam Mørk

Furniture designed by Arne Jacobsen inside the UN City.


Photo by Adam Mørk

The UN City is placed in the northern part of Copenhagen's harbour.


Photo by Adam Mørk

The main auditorium has a total capacity of 450 people.


Photo by Adam Mørk

The building has a high level of security. One of the architects' main challenges were to design an open look that could accommodate the city.


Photo by Adam Mørk

The UN City has a total floor area of 45,000 square metres.


Photo by Adam Mørk

3XN has designed a sculptural staircase for the building's atrium. It is meant to inspire UN workers to take the stairs and chat about issues and work.


Danish architectural firm 3XN have been designing corporate and governmental buildings all around the world for quite some time. Today we focus on one of their bigger designs. Situated in Copenhagen in the northern part of the city’s harbour, the UN City is a 45,000 square metre head office that comprises regional offices for different United Nations agencies and functions.

With its eight-pointed star-shaped floor plan, symbolizing each UN unit working individually with clear roots in a mutual set of values, the building is designed to appear visually open, but at the same time capable of a high level of security. When designing the building, 3XN wanted to ensure that its high security level did not become the dominating feeling when entering the building. And they have achieved this. Although the design of UN City had to meet some of the toughest security requirements to provide a protected and safe environment for UN workers , at the same time the building had to appear open and accommodating to the city.

To achieve this, moving inside, 3XN has punctured the feeling of high security with a daylight-filled atrium that connects every part of the head office with each other. In the middle of it all, the architects have created a sculptural staircase, which symbolizes the UN’s effort to pave the way for dialogue, interaction and positive encounters between people all around the world. UN employees are also meant to be inspired to use the staircase, creating informal meeting points and opportunities to chat about issues and agree cooperation.

With more than 90 meeting rooms, including a number of flexible rooms on each floor, the UN City is made for everything from negotiations to discussions to knowledge sharing. The main conference facility is a dynamic auditorium with a capacity for 450 people. Also, if conferences or meetings demand it, the auditorium can be divided into smaller rooms by using specially designed partitions.

Sustainability was another keyword when 3XN was coming up with the drawings for the UN City. Through the whole process, the teams involved in the UN City project worked towards international environmental standards and regulations. By means of incorporating green features, the UN city can boast of being designed with a focus on a number of environmental qualities.

For instance, air quality is improved by ventilating the building with filtered outside air; 1,400 solar panels are installed on the roof to support the goal of creating renewable energy onsite; a seawater cooling system almost eliminates the need for electricity in driving the cooling cycle; water efficiency has been boosted with water-saving aerators on the building’s taps, while nearly three million litres of rainwater are captured on the roof annually – almost enough to flush the toilets without using potable water.

In addition to these features, solar shades have been installed on the building’s façade to either trap or reflect the sun’s heat, depending on whether they are closed or open.

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