University of Texas at Austin

Norman Bel Geddes Database

Job 560, Multi-Block Theatre Group - United Nations, 1947-1950

Summary: Bel Geddes designed the Multi-Block Theatre Group as part of a larger proposal for the redevelopment of the area along the approach to the United Nations Headquarters. His design was part of the United Nations Approach Plan put together by William Zeckendorf of Webb & Knapp, Inc. Zeckendorf presented his proposal to the City of New York as an alternative to their plan to widen 47th Street and produce a larger boulevard leading to the U.N. buildings. Zeckendorf planned a rehabilitation of nine city blocks leading to the U.N., stretching between 3rd to 1st Avenues and 46th to 49th Streets, an area that included tenements and old meat packing stations. In addition to the office buildings, restaurants, and housing for U.N. officials and their families, Zeckendorf brought in Geddes to design an area devoted to theater.

With his design Bel Geddes envisioned "a new theatre district to replace obsolete Times Square" (Norman Bel Geddes, Letter to William Zeckendorf, June 10th 1948, Norman Bel Geddes Papers, Harry Ransom Center). At the entrance to the multi-block theatre development stood a grand Symphony Hall and Opera House on 3rd Avenue. Behind these buildings lay a complex of six buildings, three on either side of a central parkway. The parkway included pedestrian bridges stretching over the traffic. These buildings were divided into 16 theatres with a variety of uses, from plays, circuses, and musical theater to television and film. All of these were designed to be of flexible use. The complex had a subterranean garage, and could also be reached from the street level. Two large office towers at the front were to house offices, allied trades, and societies linked to theater, music, and television.

Hunter Code: TH 39
Hunter Guide: 198

Box/Location Folder Description
theater box 163 e 1-3 Preliminary Sketches --- 40 Sketches of theatre groups.
theater box 163 e 4-7 Preliminary Sketches --- 4 Charcoal sketches of UN exterior, grounds, approach.
theater box 163 h 1 Photographs --- Prints of renderings.
theater box 163 i 1-2 Publicity --- Clippings 1948, 1950.
theater box 163 j 1-3, 5 Correspondence --- NBG - Zeckendorf, telephone transcriptions, memos, re model 1947-1949.
theater box 163 j 4 Correspondence --- Zeckendorf report to Board of Estimates 1947.
theater box 163 n 1 Photostats --- Sketches of plans.
flat file n 2 Secretarial Desk --- 1 Photograph.
theater box 163 p 1 Production Specifications --- General description.
theater box 163 q 1 Source Material --- 2 Property plats.