Whatever happened to supranational architecture?


  • Sebastiano Fabbrini


Architecture, Power, European Integration, Supranationalization, Brussels


The process of European integration is constantly described in architectural terms, as the construction of a common house for the people of all member states, designed by policy-architects like Monnet and Schuman, one concrete achievement after another. The following paper weights the ubiquitous rhetoric of a supranational architecture against the largely unexplored reality of the actual architecture that has been built to house the European institutions. The focus in on the place and the period that have experienced the largest production of architectural hardware: Brussels between 1958 and 1992. This was the window in which most of the Quartier Européen was built, while the city had not yet been recognized as an official, permanent seat of the institutions, which therefore did not have any authority over the construction process. The buildings of the European Commission and the European Parliament, which marked the beginning and the end of this prolonged period of provisionality, constitute the most significant case studies to explore whether or not this architecture responded to a supranational logic. On one hand, the goal is to question how operating for a new and unique structure of power influenced the production of architecture. On the other hand, it is also important to start discussing how architecture contributed to shaping the European Union. Buildings such as the Berlaymont are both products and producers of the complexities and contradictions of European integration.