Europa (building)

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Europa
Alternative names Seat of the European Council
General information
Architectural style Art Deco, Postmodern
Location Brussels, Belgium
Address Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 155
Coordinates 50°50′33″N 4°22′51″E / 50.84250°N 4.38083°E / 50.84250; 4.38083
Current tenants Hotel, press centre, offices, swimming pool, theatre
Construction started 1922
Completed 1927
Cost est. €180 million (refurbushment)[1]
Owner Belgian government, privately held
Technical details
Floor area 45.000 m² superstructure (office and conference rooms)
15.000 m² infrastructure
Design and construction
Architect Michel Polak
Philippe Samyn
Studio Valle
Buro Happold

Europa, also known as Residence Palace, is a complex of buildings between the Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat and the Chaussée d'Etterbeek/Etterbeeksesteenweg in the European Quarter of Brussels (Belgium). It is formed of three buildings, a press centre and a building currently being renovated (estimated completion: 2015) for use by the European Council, mainly, and even also (for some occasions) by the Council of the European Union as a summit building.[2][3] To the west lies the main Council building, Justus Lipsius and across the road lie the Berlaymont and Charlemagne buildings of the European Commission.

History[edit]

Bloc B seen from Chaussée d'Etterbeek

Walloon businessman Lucien Kaisin planned the building following the end of the First World War. It was to be a luxurious apartment block for the bourgeoisie and aristocracy of Brussels following a housing shortage caused by the war.[citation needed] It was also intended to address the shortage of domestic workers at the time by having them available to all residents. Kaisin described the building as "a small town within a city".[citation needed]

The building was designed by a Swiss architect, Michel Polak. The foundation stone of the Art Deco building was laid on 30 May 1923 with the first residents moving in in 1927. Associated facilities included a theatre hall, a swimming pool and other commercial services such as a restaurant.[4] It was a prestigious housing collective for the most privileged layers of society. The building has partly been listed as a historic monument.[5]

The building only had a short commercial success. In 1940 tenants were forced to leave,[6] as the building was requisitioned as the headquarters of the occupying German army during the Nazi occupation of Belgium during the Second World War.[7] In September 1944, after the liberation of Brussels, the building was taken over as headquarters for SHAEF and RAF Second Tactical Air Force.[8]

After the War the building was turned into administrative offices for the Belgian state.[3] At the end of the 1960s, as part of work to modernise the area during the construction of an underground railway line beneath rue de la Loi, a new aluminium façade extended the north western facade facing the Rue de la Loi,[3] which was under the supervision of Michel Polak's sons. Finally, in 1988, the eastern part of the building was demolished to make way for the construction of the Justus Lipsius building. The original façades of the Résidence Palace building, the entrances and the central ground-floor corridor are now listed as a national heritage site.

Usage[edit]

Bloc A under reconstruction (Jan 2009)
Bloc A under reconstruction (May 2013)
Bloc A under reconstruction (March 2014)

Today the various blocks are used for mixed purposes. The Belgian government bought the complex in 1947 and used Bloc A (the north-east L-shaped building) for administrative offices. Bloc B (the south-west C-shaped building) and Bloc C (a smaller building to the south east of that) have in recent years served as an international press centre used by journalists for their coverage of activities related to the major European Union institutions nearby. A pre-war period swimming pool, a theatre and a restaurant have been maintained. Apartments are now being built in the courtyard to the south of bloc B.

Bloc A redevelopment[edit]

Following the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, the Treaty of Nice declaration that all European Council meetings would be held in Brussels, and the creation of a permanent President of the European Council, the European Council and the Council of the European Union (the Council) needed more office space and meeting rooms for the Council's bi-weekly meetings and the four European Council summits each year.[3][9]

Rendering of one of the meeting rooms

In 2004, a suggestion made by the Belgian government that Bloc A of the Résidence Palace be taken over by the Council of the European Union and the European Council was adopted.[10] A European competition was opened to redesign the building to suit the needs of the institutions. In 2005 it was announced that Samyn & Partners (Belgium), Studio Valle Progettazioni (Italy) and Buro Happold (United Kingdom) had cooperated and submitted the winning design.[10] The contractor is a joint venture including Jan De Nul. The refurbished bloc A and its extension was planned to be finished and inaugurated in 2012.[2] Its opening has been delayed a year and its cost has risen from 240 million to €315 million. The complex would be handed over from the Belgian state to the Council for the symbolic price of €1.[9]

The work will renovate the existing sections of bloc A, demolish the 1960s extended facade and connect the two wings to turn the L-shape into a cube. The extension would form a large glass atrium surrounding an urn or lantern shaped structure housing the meeting rooms.[3] The facade of the new extension will be a "patchwork of traditional wood-frame windows from different European countries" with meeting and press rooms covering over 6000 square metres in an urn-shaped structure, each floor varying in size. The original 1920s part of the palace will be restored and also form part of the complex. The building will also be the first in Belgium to be continuously monitored by environmental auditors, it will have solar panels on the roof and recycle rain water.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]