Copenhagen Gallery

UN City

Like a shining white star, FN City is located on the tip of Marmormolen and reflected in the Øresund. This is where eight different UN agencies are brought together in a building of 45,000 m2, which elegantly balances stringent security requirements with an open, airy expression and a strong sustainable profile

There are always many considerations to take into account, when designing and constructing new buildings, but the construction of UN City placed particularly weighty demands on both architects and engineers. In addition to being an aesthetic landmark and a highly efficient setting for the working lives of about 1,000 staff, UN City also had to meet stringent security requirements and an ambition to be a sustainable building with very high standards. 3XN have managed to juggle the many demands into place in UN City, whose eight-pointed star shape now adorns Marmormolen in Nordhavn.

Global and local inspiration

The design of UN City was rooted, not only in the values and work of the United Nations, but also in the local surroundings and the history of Nordhavn. UN City's eight-pointed star shape thrusts UN City out into the world in more than one sense of the word, expressing both local and global openness. The building is clad with white shutters, and the "prongs" are almost reminiscent of the bows of the countless cruise shops, which dock at Nordhavn. The lower part of the building is covered with rust-red iron sheets, like those on the inner side of Marmormolen.

Sculptural staircase generates discussion

UN City brings together all the UN agencies, which were previously scattered at different locations in Copenhagen, under one roof. UN City will make it possible to share administration and information more efficiently. This is reflected in the building's layout. Instead of lifts, a sculptural, black lacquered staircase, winding like a rollercoaster between the different levels and departments, unites the interior of the building. The staircase invests the building with transparency and oversight, acting as a meeting place, where staff can stop for informal chats. This is totally in line with the UN's work of creating discussion between people in the world.

Security combined with transparency

UN City is positioned on its own man-made island, surrounded by a moat. This feature is a response to some of the countless security requirements, which the building imposed. The original plan was actually to construct a wall around the building. Instead, the architects at 3XN chose to protect the building with water. "A canal is a barrier, which separates public from private, but it is a positive barrier, which also refers to the city's many other canals," said Kim Herforth Nielsen in an interview with the magazine, KBH.

Exemplary sustainability

In office buildings, the majority of energy is generally used for heating, cooling and artificial lighting. An extensive series of clever solutions in these very areas has reduced energy consumption in UN City to less than 50 kWh per m2 per year, which corresponds to a Type 1 low-energy building. For example, the roof and façade are clad with solar panels, which produce energy for heating, while seawater takes care of the cooling. Read more about sustainable solutions in our case story in Sustainable Cities.

Part of the new Nordhavn District

UN City was the first building to be completed on Marmormolen in the new Nordhavn district. Like a shining lodestar, UN City will lead the way for the development of the rest of the district, which will also have a particularly sustainable profile. Read more in our case stories about Nordhavn and Marmormolen.


Thursday, September 25, 2014 / By Ida Oline Frandsen

Last updated Wednesday, February 04, 2015