|Other name(s):||Residence Palace|
|Beginning of works:||January 2008|
Brussels, Brussels-Capital, Belgium
|Address:||Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 155|
|Coordinates:||50° 50' 33.00" N 4° 22' 50.99" E|
|office space||27 163 m²|
|gross floor area||53 815 m²|
|number of parking spaces||145|
As a consequence of 2004 European enlargement, the Justus Lipsius building became too small for the Council of the European Union to use. According to the treaty of Nice, adopted in 2001, all European Council sessions are to be held in Brussels, which results in corresponding needs for meeting and office space. In order to respond to those, the Belgian State offered the Council to cede block A of the "Residence Palace" complex to convert it to become the future seat of both the European Council and the Council of the European Union.
The existing building thus needed to be reconfigured to cater for quarterly meetings of the European Council and biweekly sessions of the Council of the European Union, as well as offices for the President of the latter as well as the Secretary-General, delegate offices for the various member states and facilities for the press.
In August 2004, the Council of the European Union and the Belgian Building Agency launched a design competition that selected 25 design teams on 25 January 2005. Out of a final round of 6, the winner of the competition was announced on 2 September 2005 as Philippe Samyn and Partners with Studio Valle Progettazioni and Buro Happold.
The original Art Deco building, the Residence Palace, was built from 1922 and 1927 at the behest of financier Lucien Kasin and designed by Swiss architect Michel Polak. The complex was a collective housing experiment consisting of serviced luxury flats located near the city center. The commercial success was short-lived and the building was converted into ministerial offices after World War II by the Belgian state.
In the 1960s, an extension with a new façade was built behind the original structure. In the 1980s the eastern wing was demolished to make way for the Justus Lipsius building, the previous seat of the Council.
The urban planning guidelines specified that the building is converted from an "L" shape to a cube. The shape of this volume follows the minimal required surface for each type of room, as for example the press room (level +1), the smallest 50-persons dining room (level +11), the largest meeting room enabling 250 persons meetings (level +5), other meeting rooms (level +3, +7) and finally the largest dining room for official dinners (level +9). Each level of this volume has an elliptic plan with different dimensions but the same center and the same principal axis. The structure of this object is rigorously symmetrical although it does not appear so.
The new double facade, made of a harmonized patchwork of re-used old oak windows with simple crystal like single glazing (from the different European countries) provides the necessary acoustic barrier from the traffic noise of the Rue de la Loi - Wetstraat and it also offers a first thermal insulation for the inner space. Indeed, following to UE recommendations about energy savings, many old buildings across Europe will change their window frames for double glazing in the next few years. In the context of a sustainable development approach, it was decided to restore some of those millions of old though still efficient window frames, and re-use them in this project. This new façade is both a practical and philosophical statement about the re-use of these traditional constructions elements, expressing the European diversity of cultures.
Moreover, the council wished this building to be from all points of view an example as far as sustainable development is concerned. This wish is displayed in many aspects of the architectural and technical design. As an example, an umbrella of photovoltaic panels for the electricity production covers both the new and the historical parts, which symbolizes also the link between the present, the past and the future.
- Buro Happold Consulting Engineers
- Studio Valle
Philippe Samyn and Partners
- Philippe Samyn (designer)
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