United Nations Office at Geneva – Strategic Heritage Plan

Designed by SOM and Swiss architects Burckhardt+Partner, the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) project is a renovation of the 1938 Palais des Nations complex. The project was won through an international design competition in 2014.

A new administrative building will create an additional area of 24,000 square meters, including open-plan workspaces to accommodate 1,400 new workstations, terraces, and private outdoor space on every floor for workplace users. Meanwhile the renovation, which extends over an area of 170,000 square meters, will include major modifications and upgrades to the UN's historic buildings.

Situated on a sloping site, the new building features a terraced design that integrates into the hillside setting, reducing its perceived impact on the site while allowing views to both sides towards the Parc de l’Ariana, Lake Geneva, and the French Alps. New design and landscaping elements are designed to connect the building with the lush parklands that surround it.

The building was developed with sustainability and the well-being of its occupants in mind. The highly energy-efficient principles of its design match the Swiss Minergie standard and place a high emphasis on the comfort of the building's inhabitants.

Its hybrid structure of wooden beams paired with concrete slabs and columns creates a warm and light environment. A shared palette of materials in communal areas, including warm wood elements, creates a recognizable 'landscape' that aids navigation around the building and establishes a continuity between departments and floors.

The renovation of the existing Palais des Nations carefully balances new design elements with original heritage features, while ensuring they meet contemporary building codes. The design rationalizes circulation, refurbishes 2,800 workspaces, makes improvements to the 34 existing conference rooms, and introduces two new conference rooms. The refurbished cafeteria will include up to 900 additional seats and will feature a new dining hall with an all-glass facade that opens up towards the parklands and Lake Geneva.