European Parliament’s iconic Paul Henri Spaak building may be demolished

Illustrious 25-year old building no longer fits MEPs’ needs, according to Parliament spokesman.
credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

27 Feb 2020

Plans are in the pipeline for a complete renovation and possible demolition of one of the European Parliament’s two main buildings in Brussels.

The work, as yet uncosted, is earmarked for the Paul Henri Spaak building, which houses the main hemicycle that hosts mini plenary sessions.

It is also where offices of the assembly’s president are located, the parliament’s main press centre and press conference room and MEP offices.


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The building was constructed between 1993 and 1995 and, according to a parliament spokesman, the building’s infrastructure is no longer adequate to meet its needs.

A question mark, though, remains over whether the building will be simply demolished and replaced by a “new structure” or merely refurbished.

Parliament has now launched a call for preliminary proposals for the work.

The call reads, “This illustrious building now needs a complete overhaul.”

Any proposals, it adds, “should be aimed at redefining the external and internal volumes as well as the integration of the building into the urban environment, the relationships between functions but also between the different users. The programme includes, of course, the hemicycle but also the parliamentary committee’s rooms, spaces for citizens, for the media and for the organisation of cultural activities.”

It goes on, “Particular attention will be focused on the flexibility of the building, in the short and long term.”

A parliament spokesman told this website that the assembly’s Bureau, the body responsible for the day-to-day running of parliament, has requested studies on possible renewal or rebuild options for the Paul Henri Spaak building.

These, said the spokesman, are deemed “necessary to ensure that the building will meet technical, economic, environmental and security-related requirements.”

The architectural “competition” covers two options: a substantial renovation or its replacement by a new structure.

“The building was created for an international congress centre and the current and future missions of the parliament require an adaptation of its functions”

The results of the initial tendering process should be presented by this summer.

According to a parliament source, the Paul Henri Spaak’s technical installations, facades and roofs “are coming to the end of their lives.”

The source states, “The European Parliament is also subject to the obligation to gradually renovate its buildings in terms of energy efficiency and Paul-Henri Spaak is one of the buildings in need of the greatest improvements.”

“The building was created for an international congress centre and the current and future missions of the parliament require an adaptation of its functions.”

“In the past, the building has been subject to intensive use and numerous adaptations, in particular following the EU’s 2004 enlargement. Originally developed as a private operation, not as a parliament but as an international conference centre, the building has reached the end of its adaptability.

“At the same time, the fact that the Parliament's competences have grown considerably, and the evolution of standards have created the need to rethink the building. This is the basis for a possible renewal project.”

He said, “The cost has not yet been established.”

The source went on, “The aim of the drawing competition is to select concepts, studies to be submitted to the Bureau which could choose a concept to be developed in detail by a design-and-build operator with no links to the creator of the concept.

The competition is being launched in such a way as to allow different types of projects to be proposed to the consideration of the parliamentary authorities.”

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