Seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Infobox building
building_name = Louise Weiss building
native_building_name= Immeuble du Parlement Européen IV (IPE 4)

caption = The architects were inspired by Roman amphitheatres [ [ Official press release] ]
former_names =
building_type = Debating Chamber and MEP offices
architectural_style = Contemporary
structural_system =
location = Strasbourg, France
owner = European Union
current_tenants =
landlord =
coordinates = coord|48.597401|7.768825|type:landmark|name=Louise Weiss building
start_date =
completion_date = 14 December 1999 [ [ The European Parliament's Louise Weiss Building in Strasbourg ] ]
demolition_date =
height = 60 m (tower)
diameter = 100 m (tower)
other_dimensions = Hemicycle inside : l. = 56 m, w. = 44 m, h. = 15 m
floor_count = 20 (17 above-ground levels, 3 sub-ground levels)
floor_area = 220,000 m²
main_contractor = S.E.R.S. [ [ S.E.R.S website] ]
architect = Architecture Studio Europe : Martin Robain, Rodo Tisnado, Jean-François Bonne, Alain Bretagnolle René-Henri Arnaud, Laurent-Marc Fischer and Gaston Valente [ [ Official press release] ]
structural_engineer = Gpci
services_engineer =
civil_engineer =
other_designers = Sogelerg Ote Serue Etf
quantity_surveyor =
awards =
The city of Strasbourg (France) is the official seat of the European Parliament. The institution is legally bound to meet there twelve sessions a year lasting about four days each, other work takes place in Brussels and Luxembourg City (see Location of European Union institutions for more information).cite web|first=|title=Protocol (No 8) on the location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies and departments of the European Communities and of Europol (1997)|date=|url=|publisher=Europa (web portal)|accessdate=2007-07-15] [ [ European Parliament calendar 2007] ]

The Parliament's buildings are located in the "Quartier Européen" (European Quarter) of the city, which it shares with other European organisations which are separate from the European Union's. [ [,11970,en.html Interactive map of the European district of Strasbourg] ] Previously the Parliament used to share the same assembly room as the Council of Europe. Today, the principal building is the Louise Weiss building, inaugurated in 1999.

Principal building

The Louise Weiss building (IPE 4) (named after the MEP of the same name) is located in the Wacken district of Strasbourg, south of Schiltigheim, between the 1920s worker's suburban colony ("Cité ouvrière") for plenary sessions, the largest of any European institution (750 seats - expanded to 785 - for MEPs and 680 for visitors), [ [ Cost of the building and number of seats] ] 18 other assembly rooms as well as a total of 1133 parliamentary offices. Through a covered footbridge over the Ill, the Louise Weiss communicates with the Winston Churchill and Salvador de Madariaga buildings.

With its surface of 220,000m² and its distinctive 60m tower, [ [ Figures about the building] ] it is one of the biggest and most visible buildings of Strasbourg. The Louise Weiss was designed by the Paris-based team of architects Architecture Studio Europe. After the project was approved at an international contest in 1991, work, commissioned by the Société d'Aménagement et d'Équipement de la Région de Strasbourg on behalf of the Urban Community of Strasbourg, started in May 2005, with up to twelve cranes at the time on what was one of the biggest building sites of the decade in Europe. The inauguration of the building took place on 14 December 1999 by French President Jacques Chirac and Parliament President Nicole Fontaine.

The Louise Weiss building has been subjected to criticism for its complex interior design : "It is apparently transparent but almost impossible to navigate; there are bridges between different levels, but you cannot quite work out where they lead". [ [ Tim Adams, "Talking in circles", The Observer, November 25, 2007] ] When it was opened, it was condemned by some for being "shabby, dark, difficult to navigate" with telecommunications and lifts being plagued by technical difficulties; Parliament President Nicole Fontaine climbed nine flights of stairs to her office rather than risk being trapped in the notorious lifts.Banks, Martin (2008-08-13) [ Roof caves in on EU parliament building] , The Parliament Magazine] In 2002, the buildings water supply was hit by an outbreak of Legionnaires disease, due to the lack of use for much of the year (see "Secondary buildings" below) [ [ EU Parliament hit by Legionnaires disease] , BBC News (2002-06-08)] and in 2008 the ceiling of the plenary chamber collapsed (see "Hemicycle" below).


The voluntarily unfinished aspect of the tower carries heavy symbolism, as it is oriented eastwards, i.e. towards eastern Europe, of which by the time of the completion of the building no country had yet entered the EU. Urban legends of mostly eschatological inspiration have it that the building was designed after Pieter Brueghel the Elder's paintings of the Tower of Babel (the Vienna version rather than the Rotterdam version). [ [ A Modern Tower of Babel ] ] Allegedly, both the painting(s) and the building were inspired by the ruins of the Colosseum. [ [ Eschatologie: Pourquoi avoir choisi Strasbourg pour y installer le Parlement Européen? ] ]


Members sit in a hemicycle according to their political groups arranged mainly from left to right, but some smaller groups are placed towards the outer ring of the chamber. All desks are equipped with microphones, headphones for interpretation and electronic voting equipment. The leaders of the groups sit on the front benches at the centre, and in the very centre is a podium for guest speakers. The remaining segment of the circular chamber is primarily composed of the raised area where the President and staff sit.cite web|title = Strasbourg seating plan|publisher=European Parliament|url=|format=PDF|accessdate = 2008-08-01 ] Behind them there is an EU flag attached to the wall with national flags in rows each side of it.

Interpretation booths are located behind them and along the sides of the chamber, while public galleries are located above the chamber around the entire perimeter. Further benches are provided between the sides of the raised area and the MEPs; these are taken up by the Council on the far left and the Commission on the far right. The chamber as a whole is of a modern design, with the walls entirely composed of lights with large blue chairs for MEPs.

On 7 August 2008, 10% of the ceiling of the plenary chamber collapsed. No one was injured, as Parliament was not meeting at the time (it was in summer recess), though a number of seats were damaged. A first part of the ceiling collapsed at 18.00 CET followed by a second part at 22.36 CET. [Mahony, Honor (2008-08-12) [ European Parliament ceiling collapses] , EUobserver] No extreme weather conditions were reported and the structure is new, so it is assume that the false ceiling had a defect. [Lasry, Benjamin (2008-08-13) [ European parliament roof in Strasbourg collapses] , Cafe Babel] The President's office stated that a third of the ceiling had been affected and that "The preliminary results have revealed that the partial collapse of the ceiling resulted from the breakage of parts holding the suspended ceiling that connects it with the actual structure of the ceiling." Repair work began immediately but it became apparent that it could not be repaired in time for the next sitting. Thus, the session starting on 1 September was moved to the Brussels hemicycle. Parliament was expected to move back to Strasbourg for the session starting on 22 SeptemberMahony, Honor (2008-08-22) [ MEPs shift to Brussels after ceiling collapse] , EUobserver] but had to remain in Brussels for that session as well as safety inspections dragged on.Runner, Phillipa (2008-09-04) [ MEPs shift to Brussels after ceiling collapse] , EUobserver] The event was greeted by joy from those who oppose the Parliament's presence in Strasbourg, and mocked by eurosceptics who wore hard hats to the first plenary in Brussels after the incident (if Parliament had been sitting at the time, the collapsing ceiling would have hit members of the eurosceptic and far-right parties).

econdary buildings

There are three secondary buildings across the river from Louise Weiss. Like Louise Weiss, they follow the numbering system of "Immeuble du Parlement Européen" (French for "Building of the European Parliament) 1, 2 and 3. 1 and 2 form a single complex and 3 is located further inland towards the Council buildings.

The .

The buildings were at the centre of controversy regarding overpayment of rent. [ [ 2004 discharge: sharp criticism but support for purchase of Strasbourg buildings]] They were eventually bought by the Parliament in 2006. [ [ Draft Report from the Budgetary Control Committee] ]

In October 2007 it was discovered that the buildings contained a larger amount of asbestos than previously thought before they were purchased. However the amount is still not deemed to be a public health risk and is limited to certain areas. The previous owner of the building may be responsible for finding and removing the asbestos within the building. This was not the first such incident as bacteria causing Legionnaires has been discovered in the water system of the complex after a number of officials reported in ill. The bacteria had been allowed to develop due to the Strasbourg complex being used only four months of the year. [Kubosova, Lucia [ EU parliament buildings searched for asbestos] , EUobserver 2007-10-17]

The Pierre Pflimlin building (IPE 3), a heart-shaped, comparatively low building at the crossing of Avenue du Président Robert Schuman and Allée Spach (IPE 3) [coord|48.595031|7.770314|type:landmark|name=Pierre Pflimlin building] , built in the early 1990s as a press and media center ("Centre de presse et d'information") at a cost of 38 million euros [ [ Centre Européen de Presse et d’Information - SERS - Société d’Aménagement et d’Equipement de la Région de Strasbourg ] ] , has been given the name of the former President of European Parliament on July 6, 2007 [ [ Press release] ] . The smallest of the buildings (21,000 m²), it is also the only one not to be next to the river or the canal. It now houses among other things the translation staff.

Former buildings

The present buildings were constructed due to the enlargement of the European Union in 1995 (and the planned enlargement to the east in 2004). Due to the new members, the Parliament needed a larger hemicycle to hold debates, and more offices for MEPs. Prior to this, Parliament shared the facilities of the Council of Europe, who had built a hemicycle in their headquarters: the Palace of Europe. That hemicycle was inaugurated for the Parliament's use, and for the use of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, on January 28, 1977.

However, the sharing of this chamber could cause confusion for TV audiences unsure which institution was using it at the time. This was exacerbated by the EU and the Council of Europe both using the same flag, although the two did use their own emblems as well.

Before the Palace of Europe was built in 1977, the two institutions also shared the "Maison de l'Europe" ("House of Europe") from 1958. [ [ 50 years of the European Parliament - evolution, powers, policies, presidents and elections] ] The Maison was a provisory concrete building of purely functional architecture [ [ Maison de l'Europe (Strasbourg, 1950-1977)] ] [ [ Inside of the hemicycle] ] and was inaugurated in 1950. It stood where there is now a lawn leading up to the Palace of Europe. [ [ House of Europe and Palace of Europe in 1976] ] [ [ Aerial view of the House of Europe] ]

ee also

* European Institutions in Strasbourg
* Location of European Union institutions
* Espace Léopold (Parliament in Brussels)
* European Parliament in Luxembourg
* Justus Lipsius building (Council of the European Union)
* Berlaymont building (European Commission)


External links

* [ Visiting Parliament] EuroParl website
* [ Naming of the buildings] EuroParl website
* [ Seat of the EP] European Navigator
* [ Views of the Louise Weiss building]
* [ One City petition] ,

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