Walk 4: European Quarter, ‘legislative branch’

8 September 2021 (clear, 28C) and 11 September 2021 (clear, 20C).

The difference between the two main EU branches present in Brussels is quite striking. In terms of architectural and aesthetic impact, there is no doubt that the executive branch is the Union’s political engine. The main buildings of its legislative branch’s Espace Léopold complex such as Paul-Henri Spaak (1995, architects Atelier d’Architecture de Genval and others), Altiero Spinelli (1995, architects Atelier d’Architecture de Genval and others) and József Antall (2008, architects CERAU and others) are by comparison much more mundane. So if political authority were to be inferred from architectural aesthetics, the EU’s pecking order is clearly visible.

Espace Léopold, Brussels.
Espace Léopold, Brussels.

But on the other hand, if the space that is dedicated to the executive branch is marked by a high police presence and a clear concern for security, the legislative branch is, as is perhaps fitting, much more welcoming and open. In addition to the visits to the buildings that were being conducted even during the pandemic, albeit in a limited capacity, activities such as skateboarding which is prohibited around the executive branch’s buildings are much more tolerated in the open spaces of the Espace Léopold.

The European Quarter is being developed practically everywhere, but perhaps the work is even more visible in relation to the legislative branch. There are plans that involve the possible demolition of Paul-Henri Spaak and of concentrating all parliamentary activities from Strasbourg to Brussels. This would require considerable investments that may well affect the inter-institutional relations of the EU, as well.

The photographs are here.