Europa building

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Europa building
Europa building February 2016.jpg
Former names Résidence Palace - Bloc A
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 Seat of the European Council and Council of the European Union
Construction started 1922
Completed 1927
Renovated November 2007 - December 2016
Renovation cost €321 million
Technical details
Floor area 70 646 m²
Design and construction
Architect Michel Polak
Renovating team
Architect Philippe Samyn and Partners (architects & engineers, Lead and Design Partner)
Studio Valle Progettazioni
Buro Happold
Other designers Georges Meurant

The Europa building is the seat of the European Council and Council of the European Union, located on Wetstraat/Rue de la Loi in the European Quarter of Brussels, the capital city of Belgium.[1] Its defining feature is the multi-storey "lantern-shaped" construct holding the main meeting rooms; a representation of which has been adopted by the both the European Council and Council of the EU as their official emblems.[2] The Europa building is situated on the former site of the partially demolished and renovated Bloc A of the Résidence Palace. Its exterior combines the listed Art Deco façade of the original 1920's building with the post-modern design of architect Philip Samyn. The building is linked via two skyways and a service tunnel to the adjacent Justus Lipsius building, which provides for additional office space, meeting rooms and press facilities.

History[edit]

Construction and former usage: the Résidence Palace[edit]

Following the end of the First World War, Walloon businessman Lucien Kaisin, in collaboration with Swiss architect, Michel Polak, put forward plans for a complex of luxurious apartment blocks for the bourgeoisie and aristocracy, the Résidence Palace, to be situated on the edge of Brussels' Leopold Quarter. Consisting of five Blocs (A - E), it was to be "a small town within a city" able to provide its residents with onsite facilities, including a theatre hall, a swimming pool, as well as other commercial services such as a restaurants and hairdressers.[3] The Résidence Palace aimed to address the dual shortage of suitable property and domestic workers for the upper classes following the destruction brought about during the war. The foundation stone of the Art Deco building was laid on 30 May 1923 with the first residents moving in 1927.

The development, however, only had a short commercial success. In 1940 tenants were forced to leave,[4] as the building was requisitioned as the headquarters of the occupying German army during the Nazi occupation of Belgium during the Second World War.[5] In September 1944, after the liberation of Brussels, the building was taken over as headquarters for SHAEF and RAF Second Tactical Air Force.[6]

After the War, in 1947, the Belgian government bought the complex and used Bloc A (the north-east L-shaped building) for administrative offices.[7] 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 was built, closing the L-shape, under the supervision of Michel Polak's sons.

Development of the European Quarter[edit]

With the development of the European Quarter in Brussels, city planners struggled to find suitable office space to house the growing staff and needs of the European Union institutions situated in close proximity to the Résidence Palace. In 1988, the eastern part of the Résidence Palace, Blocs D and E were demolished to make way for the construction of the Justus Lipsius building as the seat of the Council of the European Union.  In 2002, the European Council, the organisation gathering the EU's Heads of State/Government together, also began using the Justus Lipsius building as their Brussels venue. This followed an advanced implementation of a decision by European leaders during ratification of the Nice Treaty to do so at such a time as the total membership of the European Union surpassed 18 member states. Prior to this, the venue for European Council summits was in the member state that held the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  The resulting growing international media presence in the area led the Belgian Federal Government to develop Blocs C and B as the site of its new International Press Centre. A swimming pool and theatre were also maintained.

However, in 2004 leaders decided the logistical problems created by the outdated facilities warranted the construction of a new purpose built seat able to cope with the nearly 6,000 meetings, working groups, and summits per year. This being despite a number of renovations to the Justus Lipsius building, including the conversion of an underground carpark into additional meeting rooms. The Belgian government proposed as a solution the conversion of Bloc A of the Résidence Palace into a new permanent seat for both EU institutions.[8] Under the deal, the site would be transferred from the Belgian government to the Council's Secretariat for the symbolic price of €1, with the Council assuming the costs for the subsequent construction project.[9]

Transformation of Bloc A into the Europa building[edit]

A pan-European competition was opened to redesign Bloc A of the Résidence Palace to suit the needs of the institutions. As the original Art Deco façades of the Résidence Palace building were listed as historic monuments, competition rules stated that these had to be retained.[10] In 2005, it was announced that a team involving Belgian architect Philippe Samyn and Partners, in collaboration with Studio Valle Progettazioni, and Buro Happold had succeeded in submitting the winning design.[8] The design for what was to be later named the Europa building, involved the demolition of the 1960s extension, and the construction of a large glass-cubed atrium connecting the two renovated wings of the original 1920s L-shaped building. Within the atrium was to be constructed a "lantern-shaped" structure housing the main meeting rooms where the EU's delegations to the European Council and Council of the EU would meet.[7] Due to EU leaders desire for the building to be eco-friendly, the design was adapted to include solar panels on the roof and recycle rain water.[9] Construction work on the Europa building began in 2007, with the building originally planned to be finished and inaugurated by 2012.[11] However, due to setbacks and modifications to the design following the evolution of the European Council's needs as an institution during the Lisbon Treaty reforms, the building was completed in December 2016.

The seat of the European Council and Council of the EU[edit]

See also[edit]

Book[edit]

Jean ATTALI - Philippe SAMYN architect and engineer - 2014 “EUROPA European Council and Council of the European Union“ (ISBN 978 94 014 14494); (En). CIVA – LANNOO – 256 p; (BE). See also ebook

References[edit]

  1. ^ "EUROPA : Home of the European Council and the Council of the EU - Consilium". www.consilium.europa.eu. Retrieved 2017-05-08. 
  2. ^ "Visual identity - Consilium". www.consilium.europa.eu. Retrieved 2017-05-08. 
  3. ^ RÉSIDENCE PALACE Project Factsheet, Council of the European Union
  4. ^ http://www.blbe.be/default.asp?V_DOC_ID=1962
  5. ^ Bruno Waterfield in Brussels (18 September 2009). "New EU showcase building to cost taxpayers £280 million". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  6. ^ Rickett, Jack (31 January 2006). "My life as a Signalman during the War". WW2 People's War. BBC. 
  7. ^ a b NEW HEADQUARTERS OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION, Samyn and Partners
  8. ^ a b http://www.uia-architectes.org/texte/england/Residence/2-results.html
  9. ^ a b Pop, Valentina (14 September 2009) Top EU institution to move into eco-friendly building, EU Observer
  10. ^ "Google Translate". Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  11. ^ Result of the architectural competition for the restructuring of block A of the Résidence Palace Building for use by the European Council, Council of the European Union

External links[edit]