EUROPEAN COUNCIL and COUNCIL of the EUROPEAN UNION
© Quentin Olbrechts

Seat Of The European Council And The Eu Council

Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS, architects & engineers as Architects

As a consequence of 2004 European enlargement, the Justus Lipsius building becomes too small for the EU Council1 (hereafter named the Council). According to the treaty of Nice, adopted in 2001, all European Council2 sessions are held in Brussels, which also generates new real estate needs. In order to respond to those, the Belgian State offered the Council to cede block A from the complex “Residence Palace” to make it the future seat of both the European Council and the Council, once this building renovated and adapted to its future owners’ needs.


In other words, the Residence Palace needs to be reorganized to accommodate European Council’s quarterly sessions and EU Council’s bi-weekly ones, as well as other important conferences. It must also include rooms for the Presidency and other high level leaders, rooms for Member States delegates and the General Secretary of the Council, as well as international press representatives. In this perspective, the Council launches in August 2004 a European architecture and project competition and selects, in January 2005, 25 teams of designers in cooperation with the Belgian Buildings Agency. On September 2nd 2005, the team of architects and engineers composed of Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS, STUDIO VALLE PROGETTAZIONI, BURO HAPPOLD is designated laureate of a 6 competitors final that takes place from June to September 2005.


The Residence Palace was built between 1922 and 1927 at the initiative of the financier Lucien Kasin and designed by the Swiss architect Michel Polak. The complex is a collective housing experiment under the form of luxurious service flats located next to the city centre. The project will only have a short commercial success and after World War II, the art deco building is converted into ministerial offices by the Belgian State. An extension with a new facade was built in the years ’60, behind the original building in front of the rue de la Loi - Wetstraat. Later in the years ’80, the Eastern wing is demolished in order to erect the Justus Lipsius building, current seat of the Council. The original facades, as well as the entrance halls and the corridors on the ground floor are today listed as part of the Belgian cultural heritage.


According to urban planning regulations, the building is extended on the North-East side by two new facades to transform its current “L” shape into a “cube”. This outer area is converted into a glass atrium protecting from the urban dust. It covers the principal entrance as well as a new lantern-shaped volume incorporating the conference rooms.


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 diners (level +9). Each level of this volume has an elliptic plan with


different dimensions but the same centre 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 harmonised patchwork of re used wooden 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 is decided to restore some of those millions of old though still efficient window frames, and re-use them in this project. This new façade will be both a practical and philosophical statement about the re-use of these traditional constructions elements, expressing the European diversity of cultures.


Moreover, the council wishes 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 modern and the historical parts, which symbolizes also the link between the present, the past and the future.

iGuzzini creates a special product for the new headquarters of Council of the European Union

iGuzzini as Manufacturers

Lighting the new headquarters of the European Council in Brussels has been a long and complex process involving an advanced degree of cooperation between the various studios working on the new building.  iGuzzini has been responsible for designing a lighting system that emphasizes the original shape and layout of the building that brings together past and future and includes recycling the glass and fixtures from old buildings in various European countries. The main difficulties in the project have concerned the height of the building, the fact that it is mainly built of glass and the need to conceal the luminaires as far as possible in order to emphasize only their light.
To create the effect the architect, Philippe Samyn, was looking for, iGuzzini has designed a system that involves projecting light onto the glass Lantern that sits in the centre of the new space and was created along with the facade. The new facade surrounds the entire L-shaped, 1960s building and is built from glass, aluminium and oak recycled from existing door and window frames.
The lights are aimed in a vertical direction as the luminaires are positioned along the vertical aluminium framework that supports the structure and they are secured with a fastening system specially designed with the Belgo Metal company,  so it cannot be seen. iGuzzini has also developed a special luminaire consisting of a 70x59x1770 mm aluminium module on which 10 x 90 W 48 optic LED Laser Blade optics are inserted with a micro-prismatic screen and blind parts with serigraphy.  The module controls two optics: one with a 3600 lm warm white 3000K colour temperature and the other with a 4000 lm cool white 5000K colour temperature. The final optic is approximately 56° with 4674 real lm. The luminaires are controlled by a DALI system that creates a tuneable white effect that can be programmed to suit different times and events during the day.

The luminaires have been installed along the vertical ribs that sustain the facade in the area defined by the ideal projection of the Lantern. For the parts outside this area, a number of blind modules have been installed to ensure light consistency throughout the building without using direct light beams. The architect also specifically requested a sort of contrasting “eclipse effect” to emphasize the three-dimensional nature of the lantern. Here, too, the design is based on projecting light via a special luminaire with Linealuce optics. In this case the aluminium module has two 11 x 39 W 3000K warm white 2800 lm LED Linealuce Compact optics. The luminaires are aimed precisely at the points where the 1960s building meets the Lantern so the light seems to filter out of a sort of non-existent gap between the two structures.  The Lantern is covered by serigraphy glass and these designs limit the problem of glare for the people who need to work inside it. Moreover, the luminaires have been arranged so that they never intercept the flow of people that move along the corridor located on the outside of the Lantern.  To light the offices and conference halls, an indirect light effect has been created using an integrated diffused system supplemented by various spotlights. Recessed Deep minimal luminaires were chosen here, with a high performance reflector, HIT (CDM-TC) lamps with a 30°, 35W 3000 K 4000 lm optic with an UGR<19. Reflex Fixed, adjustable and wall washer Reflex luminaires have also been used in all the offices and conference halls. In the conference rooms the installation of the luminaires was developed in close collaboration with the architect who initially wanted to create a completely free and adjustable installation, especially for the recessed luminaires.

This solution was not possible, however, because mounting the metal structure on to the ceiling would have been extremely expensive and would have created heavy, invasive shadows.
A different installation was therefore designed that exploits the modularity of the tiles that make up the ceiling. The recessed luminaires are installed on the tiles in a fixed position, 5 cm away from the upper side and 5 cm from the left side, as the tiles can be rotated. The end result is a layout that allows the positions oft he recessed luminaires to be varied slightly, so distribution is almost random, but also succeeds in reproducing concentric ellipses that reflect the layout of the conference halls below.
Different switch on procedures have been included so the level of lighting can be adjusted, which is essential for filming activities.

Résidence Palace

DE COENE PRODUCTS as Manufacturers

For this warf De Coene Products delivered doors with special finishing. The HPL was designed by Georges Meurant, artist and painter, who created the decor. These doors were specially made to order.

Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct link
ManufacturersiGuzziniLaser Blade Adjustable, Linealuce Compact 101 recessed
ManufacturersDE COENE PRODUCTS
ManufacturersMetos
Product Spec Sheet
Manufacturers
Manufacturers
by Metos
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