EUROPA 494 – SAMYN AND PARTNERS

architect_ SAMYN and Partners
location_  Brussels, Belgium
project year_ 2016
photography_ Thierry HENRARD, Quentin OLBRECHTS and Marie-Françoise PLISSART.

structural engineer_ BURO HAPPOLD (Ir Nick GREENWOOD)
services engineer_ BURO HAPPOLD (Ir Steve Mc CLEAVE)
client_  Belgian Buildings Agency, European Council.
budget_  240M€
area_  53,815 m2

from the architects_
History and purpose:
– The decision to launch the project was taken by the European Council, i.e. by EU Heads of state or government, in March 2004.

– This followed in particular: a decision by the European Council in 2001 that all its meetings would be held in Brussels (rather than in member states); and a proposal by the Belgian authorities.

– The Europa building will host European Council (Heads of state or government) meetings and Council meetings (ministers) as well as EU summits with third countries. It will therefore serve all EU member states.

– It will also host the offices of the President of the European Council and his staff, as well as other services.

– Construction is well under way, and the Europa building is expected to become available in 2014. As many other public buildings (whether they host international organisations, national or local authorities or other public services), planning, procurement and construction span several years.

Current European Council premises:

– The current building used for European Council and Council meetings – the Justus Lipsius – was planned in the late 1980s, when the EU had 12 member states, and is in use since 1994.

– It was not conceived to host meetings of heads of state or government (they were organised away from Brussels at the time), nor for 27 or more member states.

– Since 2008, the number of meetings of Heads of state or government in the Justus Lipsius has doubled on average (from 4 to 8). In addition, since 2009, the JL hosts summits between the EU and third countries (e.g. EU-China, EU-Russia, etc.).

– For each meeting of EU Heads of state or government, all other meetings have to be cancelled during three days (more than 20 meetings of experts, diplomats, etc. of the 27 member states take place each day in the Council premises).

Budget:

– The building is not overrunning on costs and is now within the planned envelope of 240m agreed in 2004 and expressed in 2004 terms.

– This cost compares favourably with costs incurred for the construction of comparable public infrastructures within the EU.

– Around [90%] of the construction costs have already been [budgeted / earmarked] by the Council (which means that this project has a limited financial burden during this and next year).

-(Note: stopping or postponing construction now, as suggested in certain media stories, would lead to a substantial waste of resources: risk of deterioration, additional costs, etc.)

– In order to take account of the current economic situation and the budgetary constraints in member states the Council cut its budget for 2012 by 5.45% compared to 2011.

On President Van Rompuy:

– The Europa building is not “Van Rompuy’s palace”. It was decided years before he was appointed. And it will be used by his successors, rather than by him.

– It will not host President Van Rompuy’s office but the office of the European Council president, whoever he or she is after 2014, and above all the dozens of European Council or Council meetings that take place each year.

Courtesy of Samyn and partners.