Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Brussels - European quarter

The European Quarter is not the most charming area in Brussels. Still it is the nerve centre of an expanding European Union, and should be on the list of sights for any politically interested visitor in Brussels.

Sadly, the interior of most of the buildings are out of bounce for those of us not engaged in the political processes taking place in Brussels. Still you can take a peek from the outside. Here are a few of the landmarks of the area.

The Charlemagne Building

The Charlemagne Building is a seemingly new, avantgarde building located at 170 Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat. The building is in fact over 40 years old, but it has been given a contemporary facelift in steel and glass.

The building was built in 1967 at the same time as the Berlaymont building and design by Jacques Cuisinier.

It is named after the famous 8th Century French king Carolus Magnus or Charlemagne in French.

It house the Directorate-General for Trade, External Relations and Enlargement of the European Commission.

It housed the Council of the Union from 1971-1995 and was taken over by the the Commission, when the council moved over to the new Justus Lipsius building on the other side of Rue de la Loi.

It was given a complete makeover in the middle of the 1990's, adding a light, curvy exterior to the concrete structure.

(Photo: JLogan)

The Berlaymont Building

The iconic, cross shaped, Berlaymont Building is the symbol of the European Union and is the main building of the European Commission.

It is a giant building designed by the modernist architect Lucien de Vestel. It is named after the Dames de Berlaymont, a 300 year old convent once standing on the site, who managed a venerable girls school. The present building was built on its land, and the convent was relocated to the outskirts of the Belgian capital.

The construction started in 1963 and it was finished six years later. In 1985 it was in need of renovation, and the process became much complicated when asbestos was found in the building in 1990.

The renovation of the building ended up a very time consuming process. The Commission moved out in 1991 and it took 13 years before the Commission could move back into the building.

Justus Lipsius Building

The Justus Lipsius Building is named after Justus Lipsius, Joose Lips or Josse Lips (1547 — 1606) - a famous Flemish philologist and humanist. He had previously given his name to a street where the building is now standing.

It is know the headquarter of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

It is the newest of the three buildings, built 1985-1995 in stone and glass as a joint venture between many architects and builders in the EU Member states.

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