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General Information

Beginning of works: 1963
Completion: 1969
Status: in use

Project Type

Function / usage: Public administration building


Location: , ,
Address: Rue de la Loi 200
Coordinates: 50° 50' 37.32" N    4° 22' 57.58" E
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Technical Information


height 55 m
number of floors (above ground) 14
site area 26 200 m²
gross floor area 241 515 m²
number of parking spaces 1 156
gross floor space (above ground) 130 309 m²
gross floor space below ground 111 206 m²

Excerpt from Wikipedia

The design concept

The building, under the provisional name "Centre Administratif Europe", was designed by Lucien De Vestel, in association with Jean Gilson (Groupe Alpha), André and Jean Polak and with the recommendations of the engineer Joris Schmidt. It was directly inspired by the 1958 secretariat building of UNESCO in Paris (which was designed by Marcel Breuer, Pier Luigi Nervi, and Bernard Zehrfuss). The technical design was ground-breaking at the time and generated an enthusiastic response from one particular Brussels journal: "This design concept reflects both the 20th-century innovative spirit and sheer audacity and brings to mind the astonishing civil engineering arrow at the 1958 exhibition." – Présences magazine.

The building

The building has a cruciform design with four wings of unequal size spanning from a central core. It was built on piles located beneath each wing, supporting a 40-meter high narrow ridge of concrete which in turn supported steel beams forming the frame of the glass façade covering the prefabricated floors. The top, 13th, floor, however, was supported directly by the upper beams, suspended entirely by them making the lower level free standing except for the core. The design is intended to convey a feeling of light and transparency. It includes decorative details such as sculptures and frescos to prevent it from becoming monotonous.

The complex was initially designed to house 3000 civil servants and 1600 cars in a four-level underground car park under the whole complex. Foundations run to 20 metres deep. The number of lower levels (which link to the road tunnels and metro) was due to the 55-metre height restriction around the Cinquantenaire (so as not to spoil the view). It included 17 flexible conference rooms which could be used by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. There were a further nine Commission meeting rooms on the upper floors. Free space outside was converted into public gardens and terraces.

The renovation

Renovation suddenly became an important issue when flaked asbestos was found in the building in 1990. Work on removing the asbestos began in the summer of 1995, three and a half years after the building was vacated. Work was expected to finish in February 1997, but inefficient organization led to delay after delay: rumors about air pollution and violation of standards, electricity failures and asbestos outside the screen brought work to a halt. Longer time frames and more capital were demanded to complete the work. Outside management was brought in with asbestos removal being completed in 1999. Renovation work started on 1 June 1999 with work on full modernization of the building, including better natural light flows, and construction was expected to be finished by the end of 2001 according to optimistic forecasts. However once more there were further delays from the subcontractors, Berlaymont 2000 and SNCB who were constructing a railway link below the building. The completion date was pushed back each year until it reached mid-2004.

The building today

Since the renovation, the structure has not changed except for a press extension, but there have been a number of internal and landscape changes. Traffic flow has been improved, but underground parking has been reduced by 25% and surface parking has been almost entirely converted into a pedestrian mall which flows into the surrounding urban landscape. Security has been improved, and a lighting well provides natural light to the restaurant and multimedia centers. The helipad was replaced by a cupola which houses the Commission's meeting room, looking out over Schuman roundabout. The building meets the strictest environmental standards, reusing light, power and heat throughout the building.

The façade was replaced with a curtain wall with mobile glass screens that adapt to weather conditions and reduce glare while still allowing light in. They also act as a sound barrier, reducing noise from the rue de la Loi. The windows cut off the air conditioning when opened to prevent energy from being wasted. Offices, which are now larger, can have their heating adjusted automatically or individually. The heating is turned off automatically when the room is unoccupied.

The building now has 240,000 m² of floor space on 18 levels, connected by 42 lifts and 12 escalators. Offices for 3,000 officials and meeting rooms are in the tower. Restaurant and services, a 900-seat cafeteria, TV studio, conference rooms, storage rooms, Nordic sauna, car parking for over 1,100 vehicles and various services occupy the basement. Architects Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers, and Wilfried Van Campenhout carried out the 1991–2004 renovation.

text edited and taken from Wikipedia: "Berlaymont building", version of May 20, 2019 (CC BY-SA 3.0)


Renovation (2004)
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