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July 01, 2015, 11:10 PM

Single glazed reclaimed windows reused in new EU HQ

By Karl Staelens

Brabant Brussels, Belgium - Thousands of old single glazed windows supplied by Antiek Bouw of Ypres are to be reused in the new EU headquarters in Brussels.

As a consequence of the 2004 European enlargement, the Justus Lipsius building became too small for the EU Council. According to the treaty of Nice, adopted in 2001, all European Council sessions are held in Brussels, which created a need for new property, so the Belgian State offered the Council block A from the 'Residence Palace' complex.

So the Residence Palace needed to be reorganized to accommodate European Council's quarterly sessions and EU Council's bi-weekly ones, as well as other important conferences and it had to 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.

The Council launched a European architecture and project competition and, in January 2005, it selected 25 teams of designers in cooperation with the Belgian Buildings Agency including a team composed of Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS, STUDIO VALLE PROGETTAZIONI, and BURO HAPPOLD was designated laureate of a six 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 was a collective housing experiment under the form of luxurious service flats located next to the city centre. The project had a short commercial success and after World War II, the art deco building was converted into ministerial offices by the Belgian State.

An extension with a new facade was built in the 1960s, behind the original building in front of the rue de la Loi - Wetstraat. In the 1980s, the Eastern wing was 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 was to be extended on the northeast side by two new facades to transform its current L shape into a cube. The outer area is being converted into a glass atrium as a protection from urban dust of 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 an acoustic barrier from the traffic noise of the Rue de la Loi - Wetstraat and 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 reuse them in this project.

This new fašade will be both a practical and philosophical statement about the reuse of these traditional constructions elements, expressing the European diversity of cultures.

Moreover, the council wished the building to be from all points of view an example of sustainable development. 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.


Story Type:  News

ID: 89979

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