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UK architect on winning team for new European Commission offices

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A Spanish, UK and German consortium has won an international contest for an enormous new 175,000m² to 190,000m² European Commission office complex in Brussels

The winning team, led by Madrid-based architect Rafael de La-Hoz with the London office of Perkins and Will and German landscape practice Latz + Partner, was chosen from a shortlist of nine teams to win the £105,000 top prize and a design commission.

The announcement came on the same day the incoming EC president Ursula von der Leyen cautioned Britain over the ‘tone and attitude’ of Brexit.

A second prize of £87,000 was awarded to Paris-based 2Portzamparc while a third prize of £70,000 went to Belgium’s B2Ai working in collaboration with CF Møller Architects of Denmark.

Rival bids eliminated during the anonymous competition’s earlier stages included Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) of London, OMA, Mecanoo, MVRDV, Snøhetta, 3XN, and UNStudio. ZHA was the only UK-led bid to participate in the contest. 

The competition was open to teams of architects, landscape architects, building services engineers and structural engineers, and sought ‘forward-looking, innovative, sustainable and cost-efficient’ proposals for a landmark complex within the city’s busy European Quarter.

Shortly after its launch in April last year, David Chipperfield highlighted the competition as an example of how Brexit could hamper UK practices, because, according to its terms, depending on the outcome of the [EU withdrawal] negotiations, ‘tenderers from the UK could be rejected from the procurement procedure’.

The EC declined to comment on whether this clause would still apply to the winning consortium, which is led by a Spanish company.  

The winning scheme will create a pair of skyscrapers for the EC a short distance from its landmark 1969 current headquarters, designed by Lucien De Vestel with Jean Gilson, André Polak and Jean Polak.

Jury co-chair and architect Monica von Schmalensee of White Arkitekter said: ’Architecturally this complex and challenging competition fulfilled very high standards with three innovative winning designs.

’As a jury we especially valued the large and accessible public spaces the first prize winner will create and how the buildings integrate into the urban context. This will bring benefits not only to staff working there but also to residents and people passing by.’

Rudi Vervoort, minister-president of the Brussels-Capital region, said: ’We are very pleased with the outcome of the competition. Thanks to very constructive co-operation between the European Commission and the Brussels-Capital Region, this emblematic competition resulted in a project that represents a significant milestone in the implementation of our own Projet Urbain Loi that aims at finding sustainable, energy efficient solutions for the redevelopment of the European quarter of Brussels.’

The phased project – planned to complete by 2035 – will replace an existing outdated office building at Rue de la Loi 130 with a new facility for 5,250 workers also featuring retail, a conference venue, two childcare centres, a visitor centre, and a new entrance to Maelbeek subway station.

Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union. The European Quarter, located in the centre of the historic city, is home to both the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.

Landmark structures in the area include the Lucien De Vestel-designed Berlaymont building, the Justus Lipsius building, and the Espace Léopold buildings. The winning scheme was selected by the competition jury and endorsed by the European Commission in June.

The UIA-endorsed competition was launched in April last year just days after a team featuring London’s Sergison Bates, Swiss firm EM2N and Belgian outfit noAarchitecten won the competition to design Brussels’ £105 million Pompidou Centre.

The project will replace the outdated Rue de la Loi 130 office block with a new sustainable complex intended to boost efficiency and reduce costs for the European Commission. The large-scale scheme is due to start on site in 2025 and complete by 2035. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • MacKenzie Architects

    I love symbolic designs.
    This one just says 'EU Commission unstable and likely to topple soon'.

    Whether you love the EU itself or not, I think most people agree the Commission is a bad, bad organisation in need of total reform and accountability.

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