Europa building, Brussels, B

Security of the highest calibre

Many of the infamous ‘closed doors’, behind which the heads of state and government meet in the Europa building in Brussels, feature a combination of break-in resistance, bullet resistance and explosion resistance, all packaged neatly into one profile: the Economy 60 system from Jansen.

The USA has the White House, Russia has the Kremlin and the European Union has the Europa building. Located in the heart of Brussels’ European Quarter, it is home to the two institutions that represent the member states of the EU: the Council of the European Union (also known as the EU Council or the Council of Ministers, this is the body of the European Union that represents the governments of the EU member states), and the European Council (the body of the heads of state and government of the European Union).
This is where the heads of state and government, as well as other government members, meet to shape the future of the European Union. The building consists of a new section, which was designed and implemented by a consortium of architects made up of Samyn and Partners (Belgium), Studio Valle Progettazioni (Italy) and Buro Happold (UK), as well as the renovated Residence Palace, a listed Art Deco-style building built by the architect Michel Polak in the 1920s.

Iconic façade design

The façade of the new building is a patchwork of over three and a half thousand windows from all the EU member states. Some of the windows are over 250 years old. Due to the increasingly strict energy-saving measures in government buildings, they were replaced with new windows at their original sites, and so have come to fulfil a more decorative role in the central administration office of the European Union. Behind this outer shell, which is of course a million miles away from any of the EU’s energy- related obligations, runs the actual protective shell of the new building – a glass façade supported by robust diagonal steel girders – leaving a gap of about two metres in between.

Through this double façade, you can just make out the interior of the building: a bulbous structure around 40 metres tall, which is particularly striking when it is illuminated at night. Some think it is shaped like a sort of urn, while others see it as a huge egg. The lantern, as the structure is officially, houses the Council’s conference and meeting rooms. As strange as the shape may seem, its design is actually very practical. The way the structure swells out towards the middle and tapers in at the top and bottom corresponds directly with the size requirements for the respective rooms. The largest conference room, which has over 300 seats and 32 interpreting booths, is located in the bulbous section of the lantern; while the dining room, which only seats 50, is on the top floor.
Situated around 2 metres behind the stunning patchwork – made up of around 3500 old windows – the glass façade, held up with robust, diagonal steel supports, acts as thermal envelope.
Seats in the conference room
Interpreting booths

Site-specific safety requirements

Despite the playful patchwork façade and illuminated lantern, there is no denying that the Europa building is a impenetrable fortress, designed to be seen but not entered. The sequence of glazed layers, each with different safety standards, guarantees the appropriate level of structural soundness for each part of the building. In other words, the security standard is based on the scope of any potential attack, as well as how resistant the other sections of the façade are. In the entrance area, for example, where the risk of intrusion is particularly high, the bullet-proof triple-laminated glass of the thermal façade has additional reinforcement. The site-specific security and protection measures in the entrance areas also include a series of single and double-leaf revolving doors manufactured by the Belgian metalworker Lootens Deinze NV using the Jansen Economy 60 steel profile system from Jansen. They feature a combination of break-in resistance, bullet resistance and explosion resistance, all packaged neatly into one profile. Between these doors and the electronic security systems, camera surveillance and access control security gates, the Europa building is probably one of the safest structures in Brussels – it is believed that it would even survive unscathed in an attack as severe as 9/11. (AMR)
Projekt Details
Council of the European Union, Brussels
Steel profile system:
©Tim Fisher Photography

additional copyrights:
©Philippe Samyn and Partners architects and engineers - lead and design Partner Studio Valle Progettazioni architects Buro Happold engineers
©Colour compositions by Georges Meurant