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50 United Nations Plaza: Review and Ratings

between East 46th Street & East 47th Street View Full Building Profile

Carter Horsley
Review of 50 United Nations Plaza by Carter Horsley

50 United Nations Plaza is a shiny, jewel-like monolith between 46th and 47th Streets across First Avenue from the United Nations complex. It has 88 condominium apartments.

The 42-story tower was developed by the Zeckendorf Development LLC and Global Holdings Inc., of which Eyal Ofer is a principal, and completed in 2014.

It was designed by Foster & Partners and SLCE.

Bottom Line

This stunning, free-standing tower of superb proportions is a glittering scepter for modern pharaohs who demand spectacular sun-rises.


According to the Foster & Partners website, “the tower’s massing respects the height and scale of its neighbors and the façades are characterised by deep bay windows, which take advantage of the views from the site and broaden the elegant living spaces within.”

“The bay windows,” it continued, “are unified by a delicate horizontal grid of stainless steel tubes, which wrap around the building and reference the refined New York Art Deco style of the nearby Chrysler Building.  The three interconnected volumes of the bays appear cylindrical in elevation and visually reduce the building’s scale while emphasing its vertical form.”

“Entrance,” it maintained, “is via a bracelet of lush planting that surrounds the tower.”

The building’s curtain wall is terrific with its delicate stainless-steel delineation of its large glass panels and enormous bay windows on its east and west façades.


Landscaped plaza with gated entry, tall lobby with very big, banded waterfall and exotic fireplace, concierge, spa with 75-foot-long swimming pool, on-site valet parking and 24-hour resident manager.

The building also has cold storage and bicycle storage.


The two-story penthouse has an outdoor infinity swimming pool.

Apartment B on floors 6-12 and 14-16 is a two-bedroom unit with a long entry foyer that leads to a 17-foot-long enclosed kitchen and a 24-foot-wide living room with a five-part bay window.

Apartment A on floors 17 to 34 are 2,609-square-foot two bedroom units with libraries and three full bathrooms.

Apartment B on floors 17 to 34 are 3,004-square-feet with three bedrooms and 3.5 bedrooms.


The Zeckendorf organization has been a major pioneer in redeveloping several neighborhoods.  Their four-towered Zeckendorf Towers revitalized Union Square. 

Their Columbia high-rise tower on the northwest corner of 96th Street and Broadway revitalized the upper part of the Upper West Side.

Their World Wide Tower on the former site of Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue at 50th Street led to the redevelopment of Times Square and 42nd Street.

Their other projects have included 15 Central Park West and 18 Gramercy Park South.

The tower is Norman Foster’s first completed residential project in New York.  He had been commissioned by Aby Rosen to design a roof-top addition to the low-rise retail building across Madison Avenue from the Hotel Carlyle.  His first design called for connected glass cylinders occupying a fraction of the north end of the building whose large roof would be devoted mostly to a sculpture garden.  Mr. Rosen ultimately decided not to go ahead with that project.

One of Foster’s early designs, and probably his finest, was for a mixed-use tower just to the south of the Whitney Museum of American Art on Madison Avenue. The base of the tower was slanted to minimize blocking of the great Marcel Breuer museum. The design called for a tall tower to rise above the base with movable and interchangeable black metal panels with different cut-out patterns that could be changed at a resident’s request and culminated in a faced glass top.

The project that made Foster famous was a huge, high-tech, barn-like building for the Sainsbury Arts Centre in England.

The project that really catapulted him to the front ranks of architecture, however, was the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building in Hong Kong that was completed in 1986. Its use of space-page materials and astounding complexity led Alexander R. Cuthbert to declare it “the most expensive building in the world at the time of its construction” in his 2008 book, “The Form of Cities: Political Economy and Urban Design.” This building and the earlier Pompidou Center in Paris by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano and the later Guggenheim Bilbao by Frank O. Gehry were the most exciting buildings of the last quarter of the 20th Century.

In 1997, Foster’s Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt am Main in Germany was completed as Germany’s tallest skyscraper.

In 1999, he reconstructed the roof of the Reichstag building in Berlin with a huge glass dome.

In 2002, he completed the tilted-egg-shaped City Hall in London, which, reportedly uses only a quarter of the energy consumed by a typical air-conditioned London office building.

In 2003, he completed the designed for “the Gherkin,” a 41-story office tower formerly known as the Swiss Re Building and now called 30 St. Mary Axe in London.

That same year, Foster completed the extremely handsome headquarters building of Scottish Gas in Edinburgh, which is sheathed by a veil of external silver aluminum louvers to provide shading

In 2004, he and structural engineer Michel Virlogeux completed the Millau Viaduct in western France, a 1,125-foot-high, 7-pier, 1.6-mile-long bridge that is one of the world’s most poetic structures.

In 2013, he completed very impressive and very handsome building known as The Bow in Calgary, in which he turned the convex façade into the prevailing wind to minimize structural loading and reducing the amount of steel required for its diagrid structural system.  The tallest building in Calgary, it has three sky gardens.

Also in 2013, he built the 1,121-foot-high Comcast Innovation and Technology Center in Philadelphia, the tallest building in the United States outside of New York and Chicago.  The building, which has a hotel has a “central spine articulated at the top as illuminated blades of glass.” The building also has 13 three-story skygardens.

For the United Arab Emirates Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015, Foster has turned away from his high-tech style and embraced his poetic spirit.  Visitors are drawn into the mouth of a canyon-like space, defined by two undulating 12-meter-high walls and the pavilion evokes the narrow pedestrian streets and courtyards of the traditional desert city.  The high walls continue through the site in a series of parallel waves and irrigation aqueducts that have historically supported agriculture in the region are introduced in digital form.  The texture of the walls comes from a scan of dunes and represents the different shades of sand across the Emirates and the building is designed to be recycled.

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Key Details
1289 Lexington Avenue
at The Northeast corner of East 86th Street
Carnegie Hill
Refined Residences that Redefine life on Lexington Avenue.
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