About 50 UNP


The Federal Office Building at 50 United Nations Plaza (50 UNP) was completed in 1936 in the midst of the Great Depression. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a contributing building to the San Francisco Civic Center National Historic Landmark District. The architect of 50 UNP, Arthur Brown Jr., was a prominent San Franciscan and also the designer of San Francisco City Hall, the San Francisco Opera House and War Memorial, Coit Tower, and many other Bay Area landmarks.


Completed in 2013, the renovation of the Federal Office Building at 50 United Nations Plaza was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, legislation intended to put people back to work converting federal buildings into high-performing sustainable structures. It is historically significant, one of seven representative examples of the City Beautiful movement, a reform philosophy of North American architecture and urban planning that flourished during the early part of the 20th century.

It is the home of GSA Region 9, the landlords and builders for the federal branch of government on the Pacific Rim, and a showcase for appropriate sustainable measures in a significant historic building.

The 50 UN Plaza modernization goes well beyond structural bracing. It is the first major upgrade of the 350,000-square-foot Beaux Arts landmark since origination, and work was performed with sensitivity to its status as a beloved community fixture. The building’s granite exterior, as well as significant interior spaces like the entry lobby, main stairways, and the Nimitz Suite, are imperceptibly changed.

Building section illustrates key design concepts.
Building section illustrates key design concepts.

Built before the advent of air-conditioning, 50 UNP continues to take advantage of natural resources like abundant daylight and fresh air. A central courtyard ensures that no workspace is more than 20 feet from a daylight source, and all exterior windows are operable to allow cool fresh air into the building.

Steam radiators that have been in operation since 1936 have been refurbished and equipped with individual controls for heating. These controls, coupled with ceiling fans and operable windows, allows tenants to customize their environment.

The building's open, airy interior design supports GSA's mission of an agile, flexible 21st century workforce. 50 UNP is ringed on each floor by a continuous corridor, handsomely appointed in stone, terra cotta, and stained wood. The design, through a series of nodes or portals opening up the historic wall, reinforces the theme of air and light flowing through the building, forming a connection between the corridor and the adjoining bright spaces.These nodes feature shared meeting spaces and resource rooms, around which project-based "neighborhoods" can form as needed.

The design establishes a shining example of how to utilize a beautiful building from the 1930s, so it remains historically intact and functions above contemporary performance standards.


50 UNP received LEED® Platinum certification in 2013.

It was also the recipient of a 2014 GSA Design Award Citation.

Last Reviewed 2016-04-13