In 2018, Belgium granted Eurotopie the occupation of its Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia. Through a multi-layered approach to the construction of a future Europe, curators Traumnovelle, in association with Roxane le Grelle, posit architecture and space as mediums for democratic expression.

Brussels is where Europe has, for several decades, been taking place. Beyond a shared space, the existence of the European Quarter in Brussels is a survival requirement both for Europe and for Brussels. Although the European Quarter can be considered as the spatial expression of the European political system, it is, for reasons such as history, morphology, finance and security, impervious to citizen empowerment. By accepting the role of hostess of the common venture called Europe, Brussels has de facto accepted the responsibility for its spatial anchorage. Eurotopie therefore offers to create the European Quarter’s lacking civic space within the Belgian Pavilion itself, and thus to entice visitors to ponder, discuss, debate and, ultimately, to commit to constructing Europe. Contributions by philosopher and author Bruce Bégout, photographer Philippe Braquenier, total artist Sébastien Lacomblez, architect and philosopher Dennis Pohl, artist Claire Trotignon and graphic designer 6’56’’ (Jurgen Maelfeyt) are to be found in “Voyage to Eurotopie” travel diary, which takes the European Quarter in Brussels as a case study for a supranational architecture.



EUROTOPIE, 2018 Photography by Philippe Braquenier

Here is a sanctuary where citizens are building the new Europe. It is vast enough to gather crowds, secluded enough to embrace the lonely steps of those who seek answers. It can be explored from top to bottom, left to right and diagonally, revolving bodies, searching. The light is opalescent. Its intensity varies following the variations of the seasons. The floor is ultramarine blue. It reflects onto the walls and colours the space. It is consensual. It is a relic. The masonry walls are painted white. Eyes tend to lose their focus. It is either very hot or very cold. The pavilion reacts to the climate. The space is cross shaped. At its centre is a 5.3m diameter circle at which 27 people are seated. Scale is different here. Some doors are 1.4m high. Bodies must fold themselves in order to reach the alcoves. Vestiges of other uses can be perceived. The pavilion is made up of seven spaces, all the same, all different. Their widths vary from 3.2m to 10m. Their lengths vary from 5.8m to 17m. Their heights vary according to the ground and movement. At the centre, the radiant ceiling is 6m high. In the lateral niches, where those who prefer to ponder alone the state of the Union seek refuge, it can be reached with fingers. The ground rises, dips, and rises again. Movement recomposes a dodecaphonic ode throughout the space. There are steps. At 30cm high, they are both obstacles and resting places for tired bodies. A travel diary, brought back from Eurotopie, can be leafed through. Citizens listen to other citizens speaking of Europe’s legacy and of another Europe yet to be. This space is a pavilion, this space is a sanctuary, this space is a place. People crying or people laughing may be encountered here. Others shouting and lecturing. This space is one of those in which secrets can be whispered. Citizens are free. Here, Eurotopie is under construction. This is your pavilion. This is your Europe. Welcome to

EUROTOPIE, 2018 Photography by Philippe Braquenier
EUROTOPIE, 2018 Photography by Philippe Braquenier

EUROTOPIE, 2018 Photography by Philippe Braquenier

EUROTOPIE, 2018 Photography by Philippe Braquenier



We have discovered a new land that is neither near
nor far. At times youthful, yet at times decrepit, it has existed for
several millennia and will most likely outlive us. It is sometimes
called a “continent”, sometimes a “peninsula”. It seems to
stretch from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, yet its
boundaries are ill-defined. Occasionally doubted, it has also
inspired remarkable faith. We have called this land “Eurotopie”.
Built upon the ashes of totalitarianism, Eurotopie
ridicules methodological nationalism and the derelict nationstate.
Eurotopie deconstructs the idea that nations create
societies. Eurotopie is a call for liberation from the underlying
myths of peoples, nations, and power. Eurotopie is a mirror of
our time, taking what it receives and reflecting it out towards
a new destination. Eurotopie strives to repoliticize our world,
considering neoliberalism to be a lever rather than an invariable
given. Eurotopie seizes its existing tools to define a new field
of struggle.
Eurotopie is a common dream, the last utopia,
the hope for shared ambitions. Eurotopie is a metanation,
beyond nations. It embodies an emancipatory project, the only narrative
that is able to counter nationalism.
Its most singular manifestation, despite its incompleteness,
is in Brussels, in the regally-named Leopold Quarter, which
is sometimes also referred to as the European Quarter.
In Brussels, we thought we would find one walled
capital within another, something akin to the Vatican inside
Rome. We expected an overload of symbols: expressions
of power, order and domination. Some say the European
Quarter appeared out of nowhere, that there was no founding
Station Cinquantenaire, collage by Claire Trotignon

Some say it lacks ambition, that its buildings have
no architects, that its streets have no planners.
What we found was an infra-ordinary manifestation
of supra-national power, cemented into archaic architectural
forms reminiscent of obsolete powers. Eurotopie is a-symbolic
and non-hegemonic. What we uncovered was an invitation,
although a restrained one, to think reality in a different way,
and by doing so, to imagine new tools to change the present.
What is Eurotopie, you ask, and how may one reach it?
In what follows, you will find seven new perspectives on the
European Quarter and Europe. These are to be understood

2018: We start with an archaeology of thought,
moving retrogressively through the sedimentary layers of
the Leopold Quarter’s history. To begin with, there is the
Schuman Roundabout, with the ruins of a public arena
located at its centre. It was once called a “new icon for a
democratic Europe”, but no demonstrations or public debates
have ever taken place on these stairs. Just beneath a layer
of dust and dried vegetation, European stars decorate
the blue pavement. We find an expired PDF file entitled
“Brussels, Capital of Europe”, containing articles by twelve
self-declared intellectuals, all trying desperately to come up
with symbols of Europe.1 Two such symbols, which never
represented anything: a digital flag and an invented barcode.
Right below the pavement, we find the remains of a deflated
“€-conographic” circus tent, which was put up here once when it was determined that Europe lacked “eloquence and
enthusiasm”.2 A few centimetres lower, someone has buried
architectural models and drawings featuring symmetrical axes,
columns, arches, and monumental squares. A manifesto that
was exhibited in the Bozar, then forgotten.3 As J.G. Ballard
may have said, “this was an environment built, not for man,
but for man’s absence”. We also find an old draft from that
period, entitled “Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe”.
Its Article I-1 begins with the words: “Reflecting the will of the
citizens and States of Europe to build a common future….”
Who were these citizens of Europe? And why did they bury
their common future together with all these symbols?
Some frequently cited founding fathers insisted
that Saarbrücken, historically situated on the movable
Franco-Prussian border, be designated the symbolic capital.
This became a bi-national matter, which brought that discussion
to an end in 1954, along with the European Defence
Community. Hopes were only rekindled with the Treaty of
Rome, which led Brussels, Luxembourg, Milan, Nice, Turin,
Strasbourg, and Stresa each to be considered as potential capitals of Europe, although without anything approaching
the symbolic significance provided by monumental
architectural master plans. Instead, there were maps that
focused on the infrastructure connecting major European
cities. Discussions about the symbolic capital of Europe
shifted into a poetic-material debate, where infrastructural
links facilitating the carbon democracy of the European
Coal and Steel Community prevailed over concerns of
mere architectural symbolism.

Further, those links were certainly not built by the
“founding fathers” themselves. Europe has been shaped over
the course of centuries by a network of capillary interconnections.
Capillarity, faire cap (head for), capital city, “capital”
question. Europe as an autre cap (another stage or heading).
A cape, a little geographical promontory, an “appendix” to
the body and to the “Asian continent”.4 For many centuries,
this cape did not require any symbols. This fictional moment
of a contemporary past helps us to bury all the architectural
symbols and recover our common future. Europe is on its
way in a city that is the way of the future .

Brussels does not need the symbolic architectural
decor of Europe, a Europe that cannot, in any sense, be
reduced to a single image but rather is always becoming and
is constituted by its very heterogeneity. Rather than symbols,
we need an anti-aesthetic architecture that does not feign
to represent a Europe that is not seeking to be represented.
The Leopold Quarter is populated not with building-symbols
but simply with Avatars. It is shaped by an Avatar Capital, an
Avatar-Trickster, that conceals a mesh of invisible connections.
We have been tricked if we take this Avatar to be real.

Creux de la Loi. Anciennement tunnel de la loi niveau rond-point Schuman ,  collage by Claire Trotignon

Caprice des Dieux, vue des rives Leopold,  collage by Claire Trotignon

Exhale Park (Pines and pipes),  collage by Claire Trotignon
The European Commission is usually associated
with the Berlaymont building. Yet if we take a look through
the “critique of ideology” sunglasses from John Carpenter’s
film They Live (1988), we will not see the “real” message
behind the facades of capitalism; instead, we see an X-ray
that passes through the buildings themselves and reveals the
secret underground
tunnels that connect the buildings of the Leopold Quarter to one another and to railway stations and
Zaventem Airport. We see shielded Ethernet cables, conveying
surging data to and fro between servers and humming archives.
We see 50 Hz electrical wires fed by a hidden independent
power supply station. We see telephone and fax lines strung
between the Berlaymont and Brussels’ other 68 EU Commission
buildings. We see glassy optical fibres transmitting media from
the assembly spaces to the Berlaymont’s television station.
We also see radio waves beaming out from the
antenna atop the Berlaymont to a geostationary Astra satellite
that broadcasts to over 156 million households in Europe.
These satellites are managed by the European Global
Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), with headquarters
in the Holešovice district of Prague in the Czech Republic.
The GSA is but one of the EU’s 40 decentralised bodies
headquartered in over 32 different cities across Europe.
The European Commission has direct links to six executive
agencies in Brussels and Strasbourg, and the seven main
institutions of the EU are located in Brussels, Luxembourg,
Strasbourg, Frankfurt and The Hague.

One of these seven institutions is the Parliament,
which was duplicated in 1992. This must have been the
place where the theme of Brussels as a Capital of Europe
reappeared. Doubling the Parliament with a Strasbourg
location was supposed to allow the 751 MEPs and their
staff and documents to travel by rail between the two cities.
The Brussels Bi-Parliament was set up in the Place du
Luxembourg; protests by previous residents and countercultural
occupations only managed to preserve a 12 cm layer of the
facade of the former Brussels-Luxembourg railway station on
this square.5 This Bi-Parliament is attached to the transit system
like a network node, merging it into a networked democracy,
which is in motion and in a process of constant becoming.
The railways of this transit system were important
not only because they enabled the free circulation of goods,
services, capital and people, in keeping with the Treaty of
Amsterdam and the Schengen Agreement. Train tracks,
airport connections, telegraphy cables, wires, and satellites
—the whole conglomeration of poetic-material connections—
were already crucial factors in the decisions taken regarding the location of European institutions in the wake of the 1951
Treaty of Paris.
We begin to grasp the complexity of the rhizomatic
network of the EU, as it extends down into the smallest units and
atoms. We begin to see that Europe actually is an interconnection
between terrestrial sedimentary layers and extraterrestrial atmospheric
and exospheric layers. Our sunglasses shutter not our
capitalist but our modernist illusions. The architecture of the EU
cannot be reduced to a single building; it is a complex mycelial
organism expanding, tentacle-like, into everyday life.
The Leopold Quarter thus cancels out the autonomy
of singular buildings. Here, to design means not to rely on
the immediately visible, but to relate to the whole mesh of
invisible connections. Institutional and executive dependencies,
decision-making processes, communication strategies, radio
waves, Ethernet cables, corridors, elevators: everything is
interrelated. The invisibility of these connections is what
constitutes Europe. It is not the buildings that make this place.
The Leopold Quarter is made not by buildings but by the
adaptable network of Europe.

L’ancienne chaufferie (EEAS stockage),  collage by Claire Trotignon

Derrière l’Institut Nouvelle Surface ,  collage by Claire Trotignon

Entrée Sud, allée du parc ,  collage by Claire Trotignon

The Crystal Fortress of the Leopold Quarter brings
a medieval past into the future. It is wrought of moats, barriers,
bulletproof zones, surveillance cameras, X-ray scanners, metal
detectors and other security technologies. Its primary material,
glass, is often confused with transparency. For instance, the
former president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek,
argued that this architecture would fulfil all approaches to a
transparent democracy by representing transparency and
the evolution of Europe. It is misleading to suggest that more
transparency leads to more democracy, simply by the use
of glass. This faulty analogy also underlay the design of the
West German pavilion, by Sep Ruf and Egon Eiermann, at the
Expo ‘58. Democracy is not a building material; it is a practice.
Further, the EU is not a parliamentary democracy. It can be
described as a form of governance: “Governance does not
restore the schema for the representation of identities central
to republican regimes… but instead attempts to create social
order without representation”.6
The fortified zone of the Leopold Quarter is a state
of exception that has a constitutive role for the everyday life
that surrounds it outside the fortress. “The zone”, moreover,
“is exactly how we created it ourselves, like the state of our
spirits… but everything that’s going on here depends not
on the zone, but on us.”7
Brussels needs this crystal fortification to ensure that
European politics will function. Such spaces of exception cannot
be confused with public space.

Esplanades Tadeusz Wrocki,  collage by Claire Trotignon

The integration of civil society
occurs not by means of public access, but through atriums located
within the crystal buildings. Here, informal encounters occur
among a wide range of groups and individuals: activists, counterpublics,
NGO representatives, MEPs, lawyers, managers and
industry representatives. Within the crystalline forts, it is up to
us to create modes that allow for a common political practice

March 29, 1962: The Loi organique de l’aménagement
du territoire et de l’urbanisme , a law concerning Brussels’ urban planning, is passed. This spatial protocol transformed
the Leopold Quarter from a residential district into the seat
of European institutions. Rather than trusting that expansive
urban master plans would be able to construct a Capital for
the Common Market, the Mayor of Brussels, Victor Bure, and
his Minister for Public Works, Omer Vanaudenhove, decided
to set up a legislative tool for the construction of European
institutions.8 Since it did not include a finite overview of how
the new European district should be structured, it allowed
these institutions to expand infinitely.
Property owners who held more than 50% of a block
were given permission to join single plots together into a
unified whole and expropriate any remaining owners. This is
how large-area office buildings sprang up all over, in response
to speculative requests for space by different European
institutions and community members, even though at the
time no one knew what Europe would become. The spatial
protocol works “like an operating system, the medium of
infrastructure space makes certain things possible and other
things impossible. It is not the declared content but rather the content manager dictating the rules of the game in the
urban milieu”.9 This idea can be extended here to include
the European milieu. The European Union itself is a content
manager; it sets up the infrastructural conditions that make
everyday life possible, ensuring the unimpeded circulation of
the four pillars (goods, services, people and capital) in the EU
and the access to resources (energy, food, education, etc.)
throughout the continent.
The setup of operating systems in the Leopold
Quarter and the European Union reveals how paradigms of
spatial planning systems have shifted. They no longer have
anything to do with merely constructing aesthetic objects
that function as symbols, but instead they are concerned
with class operators.
Emancipatory planning practice means following
the cues of software engineering and becoming a coder
who looks for the kinds of bugs that engage operating
systems in critical ways. Instead of waxing nostalgic for
the modernist planner of the past, we need to code scripts
for our common future.
Auditoire des récits et des cartes,  collage by Claire Trotignon

Belvédère Arts-Loi ,  collage by Claire Trotignon

26 June 1958 : Paul François, head of the building
company François et Fils, sends a letter to Pierre Marchal,
Premier Secrétaire d’Ambassade (First Secretary of
the Embassy) and Ministre des Affaires Étrangères et du
Commerce Extérieur (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign
Trade). This letter proposed constructing a building that
would contain 2,000–3,000 office units on the site of the
nineteenth-century Berlaymont monastery, at the edge of the
Leopold Quarter.10 Financed by the Belgian state, construction
began, but without a client, a function, a program or even a
facade. Instead, there was just a hope for a future Europe
and a certain financial interest in locating at least part of it
in Brussels. A speculation towards an open future.
The Berlaymont is “not a static object, but a moving
project ”.11 It is impossible to determine exactly when the
construction of this building really started or whether it has
ever ended. One can only speak of transformations from
one medium to another in the co-production of several tools and techniques, ranging from speculative numbers in a letter
to paper files, flowcharts, citizen protests, financing plans,
circulation diagrams, cardboard models, ink liquidity, ruler
lengths, building regulations, habitations, condemnations,
renovations and all the other “ations”. The Berlaymont is
a work of Xeno-Architecture in a process of becoming,
one that exceeds conventional architectural categories.
It has never been modern.
How can architects announce “the death of modern
architecture”,12 yet still continue to talk about architecture in
terms of project, grid and ratio? Architecture remains trapped
in the same modernist aesthetic regime when it is constructed
and criticized in terms of the categories of symbolic facades,
columns, arches, pergolas, balconies and stairs, proportions
and the expressive qualities of certain uses of materials. If these
conditions continue, then we will never become postmodern.
Architecture is made not of facades, columns,
arches, etc., but of the techniques, tools and knowledge that
shape the process of production. Like Haraway’s cyborgs,
we have always been caught inextricably in the technology
Peristyle des catastrophes simples,  collage by Claire Trotignon

Terrace hotel and resort New Senne ,  collage by Claire Trotignon

The spaces in which the Assembly meets in the
Leopold Quarter are equipped with translation chambers.
Sitting in these assembly spaces means being connected up to
microphones, headphones, buttons, monitors and synthesizers
that interface with the translators working in 24 different
languages. Hearing and speaking are multiplied by parallel
voices as words become extrapolated into 24 new semiotic
contexts. These spaces catalyse a simultaneous production
of new meanings and objects, as spoken words are translated
at every moment. This phenomenon culminates on the Rue Guimard, where the European translation agency (ETC)
provides an official translation, interpretation and writing service,
thus institutionalizing the intangible act of translation. Walking
through the city, on the paths of spoken sounds, leads from the
Leopold Quarter—a multiplicity of territories in which English
is pronounced in different international accents, with fictional
words and invented grammars—over a series of European
communities and regional dialects, to the peripheries of a
sonic Europe. There is a sonic map of Europe, which coexists
with the map of Brussels and traces the fluent borders and
transitions of this “cape”.
If the historic discussions of the early 1950s had
accomplished their goal, Esperanto would now be the single
official language of the EU. However, this would imply the
existence of a consensus based on an artificial univocality.
Instead, it is precisely the plurilingism of Europe that makes
possible its heterogeneous politics of dissensus. What
constitutes Europe is thinking through the words of others,
the possibility of being affected by the meaning of words in
another context, a meaning that differs from the meaning of one’s own words. It allows for a phantasmal thinking,
a thinking that is necessarily affective.
The attentive affective openness to others is what
has shaped Europe over the course of centuries. Culture can
never be identical with itself; if it were, this would be a tautology.
It is always the relation between what it is and what
it is not.
From my office in Eurotopie,  collage by Claire Trotignon

Therefore, culture always needs others in order
to differ from itself. A “culture of oneself as a culture of the
other, a culture of the double genitive and of the difference
to oneself ”; monogenealogies are therefore always populist
mystifications of a cultural history.13 Europe does not have
a single origin, because it is shaped through an historic
openness towards other futures.
Nothing is lost in translation, but there is always an
untranslatable remainder. It is precisely this residuum that
is the constant production of something new: something
that does not yet exist and will not be recreated in another
language, but will instead create a new difference in meaning.
Here the becoming of language and meaning is perceptible.
Through the words of others, we can connect with other subjectivities, other places, other times, by re-configuring our
own. This constant creation of new meanings is precisely
what ties Europe together. Only a common project of thinking
through one another’s words will allow us to become true future
companions, future-companions of a multi-linguistic machine.

Radiant city, grid city, linear city, free city, walking
city, garden city, plug-in city, Sim city, whatever city: the list of
hegemonic planning efforts to conceptualize cities in terms of
grand-narrative models is infinite. Brussels never had a single
narrative dictating how it was supposed to be constructed.
Built and un-built, Brussels has always been influenced by a
patchwork of narratives: the Besme plan from 1866, which took
Rome as an ideal; Andersen’s and Hébrard’s proposal for an
international world city in 1910; the construction of Boulevard
Anspach and Avenue Louise, as inspired by Haussmann’s
Paris; Brussels North, with its 48 towers, which is intended
to resemble Manhattan; or Vanaudenhove’s metropolization  by way of car-friendly tunnels and bridges, coupled with
the techno-motor-topian dreams of the Expo ‘58.
At the same time, Europe is what Jacques Delors once
called a UPO:
a sort of unidentified political object that does
not have any predecessors or models to guide its development. Although Altiero Spinelli once called for a model of a Federal
Europe, to be based on a constitution and citizenship, this
was never fully realized. Especially with the pragmatic effort
to establish the European Coal and Steel Community and with
the Cold War situation, whenever Europe sought to project
itself into Europe, the resulting image was that of an Empire.
Europe, indeed, is alone, but Europe alone can
save us. In order to awaken, become unified, and take
action, Europe needs a new mytho-motive14 to counter the
symbolism of Empire. It needs a “minority” myth-making in
which citizens can unite and give Europe a mission. Political
identities and projects must unfold in the rewriting of myths
and narratives. Eurotopie is such a myth. It is a myth for
a new Europe, whispered from the dark corridors of the
Leopold Quarter.

1 EU Commission. The Capital of Europe. Final
Report. Brussels: European Commission, 2001.
2 de Graaf and Rem Koolhaas. “€-conography.
How to undo Europe’s iconographic deficit?”,
in: Rem Koolhaas (ed.), Content, Cologne:
Taschen, 2004, pp. 376 – 389.
3 Pier Vittorio Aureli (ed.), Brussels, a Manifesto:
Towards the Capital of Europe. Rotterdam:
Brussels: NAi Publishers, 2007.
4 Derrida, Jacques. The Other Heading:
Reflections on Today’s Europe. Translated
by Pascale Anne Brault and Michael B. Naas.
Studies in Continental Thought. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1992, p. 21.
5 Isabelle Doucet, The Practice Turn in
Architecture: Brussels after 1968, Farnham,
Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2015.
6 Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri. Commonwealth.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009,
pp. 347 – 348.
7 Andrei Tarkowsky, Stalker (1979).
8 “Now, the Common Market is a demanding
man who wants to have everything necessary
immediately to hand the day after his honeymoon.
He hasn’t the time to wait for his
capital to be built bit by bit. He requires

one that already exists, that he need only
outfit according to his needs”. Victor Bure,
“Autour du District européen”, in Terre d’Europe,
Issue 18, 1962, p. 31.
9 Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power
of Infrastructure Space. New York: Verso 2014,
p. 14.
10 Carola Hein, The Capital of Europe: Architecture
and Urban Planning for the European
Union. Perspectives on the Twentieth Century.
Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2004, pp. 138, 263.
11 Bruno Latour and Albena Yaneva, “Give me
a Gun and I will Make All Buildings Move:
An ANT’s View of Architecture”, in: Geiser,
Reto (ed.), Explorations in Architecture:
Teaching, Design, Research. Basel: Birkhäuser,
2008, p. 80.
12 Charles Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern
Architecture. London: Academy Editions, 1977,
pp. 9 – 38.
13 Derrida, Jacques. The Other Heading:
Reflections on Today’s Europe. Translated by
Pascale Anne Brault and Michael B. Naas.
Studies in Continental Thought. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1992, pp. 8 – 13.
14 Peter Sloterdijk, Falls Europa erwacht,
Berlin: Suhrkamp, 1996.



She woke up twenty minutes before her phone’s
alarm was to go off, as often happens when you are stressed
out by a meeting that you don’t want to miss. It’s as if your
consciousness records the information and then processes
it while you sleep. Finga was supposed to be on the 6:25
transnational bus that morning. She tried to make as little noise
as possible, so that she wouldn’t wake up her husband, who
was still fast asleep. Anyway, he had no intention of getting up
to see her off safely. He didn’t want her to go and had been
sulking around since the day she had decided to accept the
offer she’d received by official letter. An hour later, she was
waiting at the Nyírbátor bus stop. It was deserted and battered
by a piercing wind. She snuggled deeper into her pink parka.
A 1,600 km trip awaited her: more than twenty-four hours on the
road before she would finally be there. She studied the sleepy
buildings of her city, which she would not see again very soon.
Little by little, people were beginning to stir in the streets and
houses. The multi-coloured lights on the garbage trucks that had lit the night would soon fade away in the drab and milky
dawn. She quickly spotted the small European flag on the
truck’s license plate. She’d never noticed it before.
The journey was long and gruelling. She could have
flown instead, but that was too expensive and, with the new
regulations in effect, the Commission no longer had the right
to pay for her travel. She had to get across four countries in
the back of a Eurojet bus, her face glued to the window as
she—someone who had never ventured outside her region
at any time in her thirty-eight years—got her first glimpse
of a continent that was, as yet, largely unknown to her. She
watched as the mostly rural countryside passed before her,
as the same kind of scenery repeatedly came into view: the
carefully-maintained fields of green; the slow-moving farming
machinery; the archetypal cows that seemed to gaze out at the
world with dull and listless stares, as if from behind a window.
Here and there, a few children were playing in the yards in
front of homes with tidy, well-swept porches. During the ride,
she took dozens of pictures (which, in their very banality were
as strange and anonymous as the photos taken by Google’s cars), always making the effort to get things in focus, which was
not easy to do when traveling at 80 km/hour. In any case, they
would give her a way to remember the trip once she was back
home in Nyírbátor, seeing her friends again at the Esterházy
café. Finga spent the night in a roadside motel in the west of
the Czech Republic. At around 8:00 that night, she got an SMS
from her daughter Krizstina, who wanted to know how things
were going. She bought a packaged sandwich and a can of
apple juice at the petrol station next door (refusing the €8.50
meal with dessert on offer). She wasn’t all that hungry. She ate
her Swedish flatbread with farmed salmon, without really tasting
it. In her tiny, standardized motel room, she watched television
with the sound on mute—she didn’t understand the language at
all—but that made her neck hurt too much. The television had
been hung up high in a corner of the room, so its minuscule
screen could only be viewed from an uncomfortable position.
She picked up the remote control and turned it off. Then, once
she had quickly checked her Philos account, she went to bed
early, so she could get a good night’s rest and be ready for
the big day to come.

The second part of the trip was more enjoyable.
This was probably because of her excitement about getting to
know the city where she would be working in a completely new
The German countryside was also more varied and
pleasant. There were big modern cities, tiny suburbs where
future lifestyles would be invented, and small, traditional villages
whose local colour and charm seemed quite unsullied by the war.
In fact—and this would remain surprising throughout her long
trip—two years after the end of the war, the traces of destruction
had almost entirely disappeared. Europe resembled what it had
been before the conflict. Of course, there were still some ruined
buildings here and there, and the facades of buildings were still
pockmarked with impact craters that had not always been fully
hidden, but the infrastructure—roads, bridges, interchanges,
transmission towers and so on—had all been restored. Everyone
wanted to forget the tragic event, the most bloody of the
century. The restoration had been quick and effective. No one
could have guessed that, in the recent past, Europeans—sometimes
even members of the same family—had been tearing
each other apart like wolves that had been starving for years.

Breydel / 1989 / André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Van Maerlant 1 / 1989 / Groep Planning / Comité économique et social et Comité des régions – European Economic and Social
Committee and the Committee of the Regions

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV Jean
van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Résidence Palace / 1927 / Michel Polak / Centre de Presse international – International Press Center
At around 4:00 in the afternoon, she arrived at the
North Railway and Bus Station, a sort of thumbnail version of
Manhattan in the midst of change. The weather was warm and
overcast, with a slight fog of pollution. On the pavement, small
groups of immigrants could be seen waiting for some unknown
bit of news. They had come from Africa and the Middle East,
and seemed dismayed and distraught by uncertainty. Finga
found herself thinking that their voyage must have been longer
and more difficult than her own. She got off of the bus and
retrieved her suitcase from the baggage compartment. She
was uneasy but intrigued to find herself in Brussels. This is how
her foray into political life was beginning. She was someone
who, until that moment, had always had a degree of suspicion
about politics, which she associated with careerism and
guile. She was surprised to see that a person was standing
there holding a whiteboard with her name written on it in blue
marker. She hadn’t been expecting that. He was a tall, brownhaired,
young man who seemed quite appealing. She walked over and spoke to him in Hungarian, the only language she
knew. He smiled. Then he rifled through his pockets with the
expression of someone who had forgotten something important.
He quickly handed her a state-of-the-art translation headset.
As he was setting it up for her, she noticed that he was wearing
an NE badge covered with gold stars. Once the headset was
working, he announced in his own language that his name was
Jacob and that he was her temporary supervisor. He would be
her guide to her new city, would help her with administrative
formalities, and was there to answer any questions and give
her any other assistance she might need. He then explained,
after a short pause intended to underscore the seriousness of
what he was about to say, that he was pleased and honoured
to meet the new European deputy, Finga Molnar.
Two months earlier, Finga had received an official
letter from New Europe, stating that she had been selected at
random in a lottery to become one of the 658 new deputies
of the European assembly, for a term of two and a half years.
At the time, she hadn’t believed it, but when she called the
local mayor’s office for more information, they told her that it was not a prank. After the war, the NE had completely changed
the way that its institutions operated, and she was to be one
of the first generation of those who would take part in this new
approach. For more than ten days, she hesitated, went backand-
forth, got different people’s opinions and then hesitated
some more, before finally accepting the position.
Finga and Jacob took the bus, which gave her a better
view of the city. The bus was packed with people, so they stood.
The young man told her that most of the deputies, who had
been chosen at random throughout Europe, had already arrived
during the past few days, and had settled into their apartments
in the European Quarter. He himself had been appointed to
assist these representatives of the people as they assumed
their duties. He had been born in Luxembourg and had studied
psychology before the war. He had answered an advertisement
in a local paper, and, to his great surprise, had got the job.
He would be available for a month to help Finga get a better
grasp of the subtle workings of the new European institutions,
and also to get her bearings in the city and especially in the
highly unpopular district where she would be living. As she
clutched a strap hanging down from a bar overhead, Finga
asked him why it had such a bad reputation. That’s a long story,
Jacob replied. He went on to say that, if she liked, he would tell
her about it the next day, while he was showing her around the
main buildings that she needed to know and where she would
be working.

Espace Léopold / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / 1997 / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Rue de la Loi 130 / 2018

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

The great European civil war had been sparked when
Tadeusz Wrocki, a Polish politician who openly stated his
federalist positions in support of a supranational constitution,
was assassinated in Łódź by a nationalist who opposed the
EU. Shortly thereafter, although people still did not understand
how it had happened, numerous battles broke out in various
regions of Europe. These were not battles between different
nations, but rather between federalists and nationalists. In a few
weeks, national governments and armies were overwhelmed.
New fronts were arising everywhere. People no longer identified
themselves in terms of the old categories; they had to take
a position concerning a vision of Europe. There was so much
chaos that traditional institutions stopped working. They too had
to reposition themselves in relation to this new divide. Barracks
were looted and soldiers had to choose which side they were
on. Barricades were set up and there were more and more
bombings and other attacks. Cities were engulfed in total and
sudden terror. There were assassinations, explosive devices were planted, and killer drones were used. Politicians were not
the only targets: anyone who stated a preference could come
under fire. It was strange to see how new and unprecedented
alliances were being formed in the farthest-flung corners of the
‘old continent’. The most bizarre of these was surely the forced
coalition of different nationalisms, which had to try to work
together to fight supporters of a federalist Paneuropa.
At the beginning of the conflict, European institutions
thought they could broker a solution, but they were soon overwhelmed,
finding themselves the targets of numerous attacks.
Not a single person really trusted them anymore, and this sometimes
even included the federalists, who found them too timorous.
Everyone on all sides thought they should be wiped out. There
were also some spectacular attacks in Brussels and Strasbourg,
which compelled the former Union to take drastic protective
measures in response. In particular, the bomb that exploded on
6 October in the Berlaymont building, with more than a hundred
European officials among its victims, led to a radical decision.
The next day, the core managers and leaders of Europe boarded
a special train, which in peacetime, had connected Brussels and Strasbourg, taking deputies back and forth for special sessions
of Parliament. Now, instead of connecting the two European
capitals, the train would travel throughout Europe, without
letting anyone know where it was or where it would be going.
Its itinerary and its schedule were kept secret. It had no markings
related to the EU, so it could not be identified. In this way, about
a hundred leaders were able to live in complete autonomy on a
bulletproof high-speed train. From this train, they tried to bring
the civil war to an end, issuing orders and holding meetings while
aboard. This sort of ghost train became the object of everyone’s
fantasies. Some claimed to have seen it in northern Italy, others
in Hungary. It was never where anyone expected it to be. Certain
‘trainspotters’ from both sides concealed themselves along all
the European railroads to watch for it. It became something
like a myth. Blogs were dedicated to it. It was a kind of furtive
contraption that served to frustrate the imagination. According to
nasty rumours that circulated here and there, life on board the
train was ruled by depravity and greed. In other stories, the train’s
permanent occupants
were portrayed as pure and honest saints,
who had dedicated their lives to the salvation of the continent Meanwhile, all the other administrators and officials
had completely abandoned Brussels. The city had become
very dangerous, especially in the European Quarter, a bleak
and paranoia-inducing urban environment that did not inspire
anyone to stay there any longer than necessary. As a result
of the conflict and food shortages, the city had lost more than
a third of its inhabitants. Even the lobbyists, the most active
—although elusive and discreet—group in the Quarter, had
all packed their bags and left to ply their secretive trade of
seduction and coercion in greener pastures.
Holed up in their train as it was coursing incognito
through Europe, the members of the EU—which had been
whittled away to nothing—found it difficult to organize the
federalist resistance movement in response to the nationalist
onslaught. It should be said that, even within these institutions,
not everyone was on the same wavelength. Some just wanted
to maintain Europe’s political organization as it had been
before, without moving towards any sort of ‘supra-nation’.
Others viewed the conflict itself as the sign of the failure of
past European policy and advocated a new model that would put an end, once and for all, to all forms of nationalism; the
latter had, since the dawn of modernity, been the perpetual
source of bloody and savage agitation, and, above all, of
millions of deaths.
Taking advantage of this internal tension, European
nationalists, who had united into a league, managed to locate
the train and send their forces to attack it (legend had it that
the EU train was found by using information shared by an
application that tracked people as they exercised). This was the
infamous Fulda massacre, which really horrified Europeans on
all sides of the fence. What had initially seemed like a victory
for the nationalist faction turned out to be its defeat. Pyrrhus
had struck again. The turmoil brought about by this slaughter
of pacifist leaders, who had done everything they could to
restore peace and order, swayed public opinion in favour of
the federalist faction and the Eurotroops. Ten months later,
the various nationalist armies began, bit by bit, to lay down
their weapons. Five million people had been killed during the
conflict; ten million had been wounded; hundreds of cities had
been destroyed; there were billions of euros of damage; and more than thirty million people had been obliged to leave their
homes and live in refugee encampments. The continent of
Europe had been ravaged, not only physically, as a result of a
violent war that had employed modern weapons and terrorist
methods, but also, and especially, in terms of its morale. Such
a level of psychic devastation had not been experienced since
the continent had succumbed to a murderous and ideological
totalitarianism nearly a century earlier.

Justus Lipsius / 1995 / Bureau d’architectes CDG / Conseil de l’Union européenne – Council of the European Union

Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout / Commission européenne – European Commission

Justus Lipsius / 1995 / Bureau d’architectes CDG / Conseil de l’Union européenne – Council of the European Union

The One / En construction – Under construction / B2Ai

This city had most certainly suffered a great deal more
in the war than had other European cities, which had not been
targeted by bombs as frequently. Its status as capital city (even
if this had never been made official) had put it in the line of fire,
to its great detriment. Many of its buildings had been damaged
or destroyed, particularly in the city centre, which had been the
prime target of attacks on the Eurogroup. Despite the massive
reconstruction efforts, much rebuilding remained to be done.
There were still deserted zones filled with ruins, or terrae
incognitae. Of course, those who had lived in Brussels before
the war were already used to seeing their city as a perpetual
construction site (and the word ‘Brusselization ’ had even been
coined to describe the urban chaos of a city that was being
build up without any coherent planning and handed over to
greedy developers). Yet this time, it was different. Battle scars
could still be seen on many buildings. The immense dome
of the Palace of Justice had been blown to pieces during a
raid and the gaping hole that remained was like an unsightly gap in a set of rotten teeth. It was at once sad and beautiful,
as every spectacle of wreckage tends to be.
Because it was better protected than other areas of
the city, the European Quarter had suffered less damage.
Other than the Berlaymont bombing, there had been no
assaults of that unfortunate magnitude. A tank of undetermined
origin had attempted to fire on the Council’s ‘egg in a cage’,
the despised symbol of the Eurocrats and their extravagant
spending, but it had been neutralized quickly. In this open zone,
only snipers spread terror. They were as terrifying as the winds
that blasted through the streets and cut through you like a
cold, sharp knife. Although the buildings had been designed to
prevent such shootings—all the surrounding buildings had been
required to comply with a drastic law covering the placement
of balconies, flat roofs, and so on—snipers still managed to
find positions in strategic locations from which they could fire
on passers-by, who, in the midst of the large and open spaces,
became ideal targets. After many people had fallen victim
to the full force of these snipers, a legend was born. People
began to imagine that this was all the work of one lone wolf who always managed to escape the clutches of the police.
The bullets always struck the same place on the body, the left
side of the chest just above the heart, with a surgical precision
that surprised everyone and lent credence to the lone-gunman
theory. He was called the ‘Grasse-Mat’ or ‘Late Riser’ , because
he was only active at the end of the afternoon or sometimes
at night, when he used a night-vision rifle scope.
After the most prominent officials had abandoned the
city and taken refuge on their last-ditch train, the area had been
left to go to seed. No one went there anymore, except for a few
black-marketers and drug dealers, who plied their trades there.
In any case, the residents of Brussels had never spent much
time in that part of the city. As far as they were concerned, even
when it was inhabited, it was already empty. They found no
reason to visit or even live in that zone, which they had viewed
as a sort of blank, unoccupied spot on a map.

Rue de Trèves 84 / 2018
Centre de conférence Albert Borschette / 1981 / Claude Emery, Jacques Baudon, Paul Hayot & Ernest C. Henry /
Commission européenne – European Commission

Justus Lipsius / 1995 / Bureau d’architectes CDG / Conseil de l’Union européenne – Council of the European Union

Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout / Commission européenne – European Commission

As the bus zoomed along the Rue de la Loi (Law
Street) into the European Quarter, Finga glanced around
anxiously at her surroundings. The high-rise office buildings,
submerged in the twilight of the falling night, made quite an
impression on her. It was as if the Quarter was sending out
some jumbled message, which it hoped would be understood
by people who shared its confusion. Jacob sensed that she was
worried and tried to reassure her. He, too, had found it hard, at
first, to warm up to this utilitarian district, with its ‘generic boxes
covered in mirrors’ , as a tetchy columnist had once described
it, but with time, the place had grown on him. It would be like
that for her too, he said. There were lots of interesting things
to see and do, and she shouldn’t make too much of her first
impression, frosty as it might be. Finga did indeed have a
thinly disguised frown of consternation on her face as she cast
her gaze on the towering forms that stood out starkly against
the dimming evening sky. In Budapest, she had already seen
plenty of this kind of international architecture, as insipid and standardized as the bad English that everyone spoke in such
buildings. She had a hard time imagining how anyone could
work, live and love in such interchangeable places. Earlier,
before she had left, while she had been trying to learn about
where she would be living, hadn’t she read that this was the
most-hated part of the city?
Jacob and Finga got off the bus at the Schuman
roundabout. To the left, the long, technocratic blockhouse
structure of the Berlaymont obstructed the horizon. Genteel
brutalism still had a bright future ahead of it. After all, hadn’t
the war that had just been fought proven the case for it? They
walked down Froissart Street. Finga caught sight of a large
billboard with red and white lettering, which read STRESS
FREE ZONE. Jacob, seeing her surprised look, anticipated
what she was about to ask and explained what it meant:
everything was being done to provide residents with peace
and tranquillity. For this reason, the highest level of security
was maintained in the Quarter. Even before the war, the sense
of paranoia had led it to be redesigned, by introducing ever
more traffic cones, barriers, turnstiles, moats—in short, every possible form of safety measure to shield against attacks. Since
the end of the conflict, things had apparently not calmed down.
Defensive architecture had found its very own show home.
Finga was nonetheless surprised to see that, next to
modern, yet slightly dated buildings, stood entire streets filled
with older buildings. Jacob smiled. The European Quarter,
he said, taking his role very seriously, had been constructed
on top of the Leopold Quarter, and many buildings dating from
that period remained standing. In the late 1960s, residents had
fought against the expropriation and destruction of the beautiful
luxury townhouses, hôtels particuliers, and mansion blocks,
most of which had been built at the end of the nineteenth century,
with money made in colonial trade in the Congo. For this
reason, he continued with a hint of critical rancour, this wealth of
architectural richness served, as it often does, to mask injustice
and exploitation. In this sense, the Leopold Quarter was like an
indigenous burial ground, atop which a new European city had
been constructed. And, he added, we could think that, as in the
film Poltergeist , perhaps the unquiet souls of the dead would
return at night to haunt the endless corridors of the office high rises and their equally ghostlike inhabitants. She hadn’t seen
the film, but found the comparison amusing.
By the time that they arrived at her apartment building,
night had fallen. Finga filled out several forms and got her
keys and the Wi-Fi code. Her apartment was on the eighth
floor of a modern tower. Jacob bid her good night, reminding
her that they were to meet the next morning at 9:00 with
Milan, the special advisor, for a tour of the Quarter and its
main institutions. She could call him whenever she liked, if
necessary. He was available round the clock. She thanked him
and got onto the lift with her wheeled suitcase. The apartment
was neither big nor small, with the standard amenities typical
of rooms that were as suitable for upper management as for
senior officials. There was a fully equipped kitchen, both its
cabinet and its large refrigerator filled with food. An enormous
flat-screen television entirely covered a large part of the wall in
the living room. From the large bay window, Finga could see the
European Quarter spread out before her: an urban skyline that
was now all lit up. The lighted windows were like little islands of life in the vast ocean of night. Here and there, she could
make out people sitting in front of their computers or moving
around and talking. Those sharp and modern high rises always
provide quite a show, gleaming in the deep darkness of the city
like endocrine disruptors interfering with sleep. She drew the
curtains and began to unpack. She was going to be spending
the next few years here, trying to make it into her home. It was
not always obvious how she could do that. As a philosopher
had once written, when guests start bringing their own plants to
a hotel, every house starts to feel provisional, like a way station.
The determination to personalize betrays an original lack of
personality and, wherever they are found, rooms with neutral
decor are naked reflections of wounded narcissism. If hotels
are being transformed more and more into apartments that
can be decorated to suit one’s own taste and thus be claimed
temporarily, the reverse is also true: our homes are coming
to resemble places where inner tourists are only passing
through. Further, these homes are all being furnished by the
same purveyors of flat-pack furniture, universally embracing
the stripped-down aesthetic of lives without History. Nothing remains foreign to us, because the same empty familiarity
occupies every corner of the world. The personalization of
the standard and the standardization of the personal work
in concert. We go about our lives in our living rooms as if
they were train stations, wondering, ruefully, where the other
travellers have gone.

Résidence Palace / 1927 / Michel Polak / Centre de Presse international – International Press Center
Justus Lipsius / 1995 / Bureau d’architectes CDG / Conseil de l’Union européenne – Council of the European Union

Immeuble BULL / 1985 / René Stapels / Commission européenne – European Commission
Immeuble BULL / 2015 / DDS + / Commission européenne – European Commission

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Covent Garden / 2007 / Art & Build / Commission européenne – European Commission

The One / En construction – Under construction / B2Ai

He was about forty years old, of average height, with
brown hair. His misty, light blue eyes were the first things
people noticed when they met him. Finga was no exception to
this unwritten rule. She found she was overpowered by their
colour, which was so pale that his irises seemed almost to melt
into his pupils. During the war, Milan Tevios had fought with
the federalist faction. He had been a captain in the Eurotroops,
the army made up of pro-Europe volunteers and established
military units that had remained faithful to the EU. He was
currently taking part in the democratic reconstruction of New
Europe. His role was to provide the new deputies—men
and women in equal numbers, in perfect respect for gender
equality—with the tools they needed to understand the new
system. He was one of those who had conceived this system
during the war, when the desire for a new start was at its
strongest. This was because, for Milan and his colleagues,
the old electoral and executive systems had never really worked
democratically. They had even created an ever-greater distance between the institutions, which were closed in on themselves,
and the citizens, who no longer found that those institutions
represented them. Europe was thus itself, in his view, partially
responsible for the war. However, today he was not going to
be presenting the operation of the new institutions; instead, he
would be taking the new arrivals—besides Finga, there were
six other new representatives in the group—on a tour of what
was to become their new Quarter. It should be noted that before
becoming involved in politics, Milan had been an urban planner.
He was familiar with the tumultuous history of the Quarter and
the buildings that composed it. He was thus perfectly placed
to provide the future deputies with a better understanding of
the area.

Rue de Trèves 84 / 2018

Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout / Commission européenne – European Commission

Van Maerlant 1 / 1989 / Groep Planning / Comité économique et social et Comité des régions – European Economic and Social Committee
and the Committee of the Regions

Finga spent more than two hours exploring the Quarter
using a digital audio guide. An impersonal voice described each
building, its history and how it was being used. Sometimes
Milan chimed in with anecdotes and details that were not in the
official presentation. For example, he explained that the entire
Quarter had come about as the result of a risky commercial
and political wager. At the outset, in the late 1950s, the EU,
which was still being called the EEC, had not yet chosen a
capital city. Several cities had applied, especially in the north
of the continent. The Belgian authorities had an intuition about
what was coming. In order to force the hand of the European
agencies a bit, they had, with help from developers, started
constructing a business district, in the hope that Brussels
would be chosen. It was a bold move. They calculated that if
the European authorities wanted to save money and avoid the
debts that such constructions inevitably involve, then they would
find a city to rent that was move-in ready and fully equipped to
receive institutions that were still in their infancy. If, however, another city was chosen, the quarter could immediately be
converted into a simple business district for companies and
administrative services. In the end, their calculations turned
out to be correct, and political Europe set up headquarters in
Brussels, which was able to offer a selection of new and readyto-
use buildings. Detractors called this audacious strategy
the ‘childhood disease’ of the EU, and already saw in this
original wager the stranglehold exerted by the economy and
the market over the ‘construction’ of Europe, in both senses of
the term. Indeed, this strategy had actually obliged developers
to build, with a certain lack of precision, a group of multipurpose
structures whose ultimate function was still unknown while
they were being designed and built. Thus, most of the European
buildings in which Finga was going to be working had actually
not been designed specifically for that use. They were like
modular projects. The fact that they had become home
to European institutions was a mere happenstance, like a
tremulous halo of possibility encircling the concrete, glass
and stone, or like a sort of empty shell that had to be filled up
and fitted out.
This background explained a lot. To begin with, the
buildings had not been built to respond to the terms of any
specific public tender. Instead, their shape was supposed to
please everyone’s tastes, even the rather minimalist tastes of
upper management. Their form, like some kind of malleable
and plastic entity that would be open to the haphazard changes
of the moment, had to be able to adapt to a whole range of
novel functions and personnel, serving as a sort of blank page
that could be filled in and then erased by the different uses to
which the buildings were put. Milan referred to this, somewhat
enigmatically, as ‘xeno-architecture’ . Buildings were usually built
for a specific purpose. Here, however, form preceded function,
and that had brought with it a distinctive style characterized by
the very absence of qualities. Some found it neutral and banal,
but others were fascinated by its versatility and its openness
to the foreign and indeterminate. This ‘lite’ architecture was
receptive to all sorts of variations, since it was not defined by
highly distinctive forms.
Viewed from above (from the heliport of the Justus Lipsius
building, to be precise), the Quarter resembled a bow tie, with
the Schuman roundabout forming the centre knot. At the northwest,
there was the great Berlaymont, which had always been
the Commission’s main building; despite all the vicissitudes of
Europe’s history and the recent war, it had remained so, even for
the new regime which had, however, profoundly changed the way
in which institutions were to operate. What surprised Finga about
this elongated, docked-oceanliner of a building was the enormous
size of its meeting rooms and their exemplary modularity.
From within, everything gave the impression it could be reconfigured
completely at a moment’s notice in order to accommodate
a specific need: conference hall, workspace, a meeting of the
general assembly, and so on. If, from the outside, the Berlaymont
looked like an immobile and somewhat ungainly giant, on the
inside it could be arranged and rearranged in multiple ways, with
a form of fluid, light and volatile design that—while resonating
with the period of Zygmunt Baumann’s ‘liquid modernity’—
clashed markedly with the imposing concrete framework in which
it was encased. Yet even within the rigid corset of this framework
(and of the institutions), it could open out in several directions like
a creature prone to unlimited and successive metamorphoses.

Finga did not have this same sense of plasticity when
she visited the Paul-Henri Spaak building, home to the Parliament,
which the residents of Brussels had nicknamed the ‘Caprice
des Dieux (Whim of the Gods)’, in reference to both the oval
shape of the package of a well-known brand of industrial cheese
and the delusions of grandeur of earlier European leaders.
She passed through its great, cavernous body—which had been
threatened with destruction several times because of problems
with its insulation and foundation—without feeling any pleasure
whatsoever. The Chamber of the Parliament was certainly as
impressive as an American basketball arena, in which the luxury
sky boxes had been replaced with booths for interpreters (who
were less and less numerous every day, because of the progress
that was being made on simultaneous-translation headsets). Finga
was eager to take part in the debates held there, yet she didn’t find
the building to be aesthetically successful, and it seemed even less
pleasant or liveable. Under its covering of blue-tinged glass, it was
too disproportionate and cold, but she was going to have to spend
many long hours there, especially in her office on the sixth floor
of the left wing, where she would meet with citizens.

Paradoxically, she had a soft spot for the Justus Lipsius
building. It was neither the most spectacular nor the most
famous, but she liked its imposing salmon-coloured forms and
its glass walls. The evening before, Jacob had described it as
resembling the main office of a regional investment bank, but
Finga now found this appraisal a bit severe and unnecessarily
cynical. She had always lived in a small, quiet city filled with
the traditional architecture of the Hungarian steppe, an ideal
backdrop for a film by Béla Tarr or Miklós Jancsó, so for her,
the European Quarter, with its black limousines and crystal
castle keeps, offered up an instant exoticism. It was like a
of vast vestibules, LED bulbs, open spaces,
multi-coloured flags, surveillance cameras and road tunnels.
She amused herself by dissecting the impressive masses with
her gaze, visually framing off new compositions. She would,
for example, isolate a row of windows with reflective panes or
a suspended walkway in glass. She began to find something
appealing in these places, spread out willy-nilly on hills that
were as round as the backs of whales, while the Maalbeek
stream ran through them. She was also charmed by the people who were rushing off to meetings or smoking cigarettes by a fire
hydrant in a car park. After all, buildings are what we make of
them, not eternally fixed in their infrastructure, however solid it
may be. They also evolve in relation to how they are used and
reused. Milan had stressed this point. They shouldn’t be thought
of as special and separate, like some closed world; instead,
the particularity of the area should be grasped in relation to the
life taking place in it, which was far from dull and boring, despite
what other people from Brussels imagined.

Breydel / 1989 / André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
The Capital / 2009 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval / Service européen pour l’action extérieure – European External Action Service

Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout / Commission européenne – European Commission

Espace Léopold / 1969 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Eurosquare / 1999 / Montois Partners Architects / Commission européenne – European Commission

Espace Léopold / 1969 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Lex 2000 / 2008 / Jaspers - Eyers / Conseil de l’Union européenne – Council of the European Union
Charlemagne / 1967 / Jacques Cuisinier / Commission européenne – European Commission
Charlemagne / 1999 / Helmut Jahn / Commission européenne – European Commission

The second day was entirely devoted to a general
to the operations of European institutions. Milan
again chaperoned the new representatives. Finga was a little
tense. This was not like the day before. No more being a
tourist. Today was about finally donning her new robes and
becoming a European deputy, a position that she had acquired,
to her great surprise, by having her name picked out of a hat,
as specified by the election procedures adopted by the NE.
The meeting was held in one of the renovated rooms at the
Europa. After having breakfast with Jacob, Finga had taken a
route that led her by the great hall, so she could see the giant
egg imprisoned in its cage, like a sort of symbolic hostage of its
own gigantism. She had had no trouble in finding the meeting
room and immediately recognized her other colleagues, all of
whom were speaking different languages. From time to time, she
liked to unplug her headset and listen to the poetic murmuring
of all these European languages, as they were being spoken
at the same time in a strange polyphony that delighted her. 

Milan opened the meeting by explaining that the
war had not only provided an opportunity to save European
institutions from nationalist and regionalist factions, whose
secessionist demands had enjoyed great success on the
heels of Brexit in 2019, thus leading to the conflict with which
everyone was familiar. That war had also led European leaders
to ask themselves how things had reached that point. During
the battles that were drowning the continent in blood, two
different de facto positions had emerged aboard the solitary
train that was all that remained of the EU: some adopted the
somewhat conservative position of wanting simply to save
Europe as it was , with its Council that was still dominated
by nation-states and its Parliament with its limited powers,
thus opposing any fundamental reworking of its structure and
operation; others, while remaining fiercely opposed to the
partisans of nationalism, held that the anemic and exhausted
institutions of Europe bore some responsibility for the conflict.
They no longer really functioned democratically, and hadn’t for
quite a while; it was therefore necessary to take advantage,
in some sense, of the war and get things on a new footing.

This current, which was initially very much in the minority,
eventually prevailed, to everyone’s surprise, and, when
victory was assured, it naturally became the guiding force
in re-establishing the EU as the NE. Milan belonged to this
revolutionary current. He was therefore the best placed to
explain the meaning of the reform to them.

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Justus Lipsius / 1995 / Bureau d’architectes CDG / Conseil de l’Union européenne – Council of the European Union

Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout / Commission européenne – European Commission

Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout Commission européenne – European Commission

The new policy rested on the basic principle of universal
participation . While in a parliamentary system, representatives
are only accountable to the people during elections, and
are otherwise free to follow their own wishes or those of their
party, the new system was based on a close and direct relationship
between the representatives, who were chosen in a lottery,
and their constituencies. Milan first outlined what he identified
as the major difficulties with the old system, which had proven
to be totally and definitively unequal. The main aspect, he said,
consisted in a progressive depoliticization of people and an institutional
gap that cut them off from their deputies. Whether
these deputies were honest or corrupt was unimportant, for the
problem had nothing to do with their personal qualities. It was the
structure itself that was poorly designed and ended up furthering
the well-known evils of parliamentarianism, the most troubling of
which was people’s growing indifference: between elections, they
had no real involvement in official government affairs. That, obviously,
encouraged elected representatives to think that they were the only ones in charge, convinced of both the fundamental lack
of interest and the general incompetence of those who had put
them in power.
The new system, however, was inspired by council communism
and participatory democracy. Elected representatives
would constantly be required to take the choices of their constituency
into account; if their decisions diverged from these choices,
they could even be removed from office on the spot. The fact that
they could only be elected once in their lives would help dissuade
them from devoting their time in office to furthering their re-elections.
Politics, Milan said, was not a profession, a career or some
kind of personal and mystical vocation. It was a mundane concern
shared by all, and communal action served to organize social life
in the way that would be the most just and satisfying for everyone.
He hardly needed to explain that the old system had
produced and enabled a professional caste that believed it had
an innate gift for governing. However, Milan added, politics was
not a science, and even less a private matter. No particular
skills were needed to take part in elaborating the common
good, and no one could claim to have special expertise in this field. Anyone and everyone could govern, and that was the
reason for the lottery system, which had been used in cities
in both ancient Greece and the Italian Renaissance, allowing
everyone to participate equally and to have a say. Whereas
the parliamentary system created people who were voiceless
and invisible, harnessing the commonweal for its own profit
by turning it into an issue of self-promotion, the new system
provided ‘anyone and everyone’ (each time Milan used this
phrase, which he had drawn from his reading of Jacques
Rancière, he stressed it) with the possibility of being heard,
directly and on a continual basis. And that was its great
advantage! Politics would no longer be reduced to an electoral
fervour that happened once every five years—a fervour that
would lead to the election of ‘candidates who were completely
interchangeable’ , Milan added—and would then disappear from
the public radar. Instead, it would be a common and continuous
practice, something that people would do together every day,
through collective deliberation and decision-making.
In this way, representative but non-elective democracy
would connect the people more closely to their representatives.

Greater proximity would beget genuine trust, Milan claimed. Any
disparity in skills would be quickly compensated for by collective
participation. Experience had shown that those chosen at random
might initially balk at taking action, already feeling convinced
of their incompetence in this field. Yet, like their peers, they would
quickly lend themselves to the task at hand and become driving
forces for new ideas. Democracy, after many crises and lean
years, would finally be supported by the multitude; it would no
longer be an exclusive club for the ‘happy few’, who had been
selected on the basis of their social position and money. The old
system, Milan explained, was too vulnerable to corruption and
partisan politics. The new one would have the singular advantage
of putting an end to technocracy, which had alienated the
constitutive power of all for its own gain. Yet it was not only more
legitimate; it would also prove to be more effective. Of course,
as Milan continued, this new structure, inspired by the councilist
movement of free citizens, was not a panacea. The threats
of both corporatism and the reconstitution of parties remained.
Further, this more direct form of democracy would only get results
if it were accompanied by measures designed to educate the public. Yet in this search for the common good, anyone and
everyone—from a Lithuanian baker to a Slovenian lawyer—could
find him- or herself at the heart of policy making. As a result, the
risk that things would drift off into a new parasitic bureaucracy
seemed to be reduced.
Milan summarized the fundamental principles of this
new political approach, which sought to address the divide
between those who manage and those who carry out orders:
supervision (each deputy could be stripped of the office by
citizens who reviewed her or his actions, voting history and the
coalitions he or she joined); involvement (everyone would take
a more direct part in political life, for there would be visible,
concrete evidence that each person’s choices were listened
to and respected) and finally, self-determination (this system
would really enable people to act, to be the true ‘cratos (power
or rule)’ of the demos (people)’. ‘Democracy’ would become
more than a pointless term discussed in a few elegantly-written
lines in the constitution. By the time the session was about
to close, Milan became lyrical: ‘power is not something that
anybody can be given; it’s something people take’ .

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Beaulieu 1 / 1993 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval / Commission européenne – European Commission

Rue de Pascale / 2018

Espace Léopold / 1999 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

As a young deputy from Portugal pointed out, the most
difficult thing was to reconcile the new principles, which she
found interesting and fair, with the surrounding architecture.
She sensed a direct and manifest contradiction between this
experiment with a wild and radical form of democracy and
the buildings, which had been designed for the aristocrats of
the market.
Milan beamed as if he was thrilled to see how
quickly these ordinary citizens had grasped the nature of the
problems that they would have to contend with. He took a
moment before replying. Then he agreed that the European
Quarter did not, indeed, really look like an open and garrulous
agora, where any citizen would be welcome to join in vivo in
the drafting of laws. However, the commission had thought
of a way to make up for precisely this shortcoming. Various
avenues were being explored and committees were going to
be set up to examine the matter. One idea, for example, was
to use emerging technologies; they could involve much more than the individual’s alienation in a system controlled by big
companies, which imposed their tools on users. Instead, these
technologies could be used wisely to support clarity and citizen
participation. Collaborative platforms had been set up around
the themes of climate, health, energy equity and transportation.
A solidarity economy was emerging in an effort to make
Europe something other than a competitive free market.
‘Smart cities’ shouldn’t be cash machines where citizens
would be forced to pay for services that should be available
to them at no cost; instead, they should become an invaluable
resource in the democratic and ecological renewal of a world
of eight billion inhabitants. Another project involved setting up
monthly meetings for citizens who would take part in legislative
deliberations and send delegations that the parliamentarians
would be required to hear. They had also thought of other
ways of opening up the Quarter, so that citizens could make
it their own and take part in the new world. This would break
with the pre-war years, when the only people who were to
be found out and about in the district were morose public
servants and shady lobbyists For Milan, architecture especially was not a model that
was closed and immutable; a city that hadn’t been built around
the principles of ‘bottom-up’ democracy could nevertheless
be reconfigured, by incorporating relevant features. That was
what was so intriguing: the enduring opportunity for the city and
human desire to adapt to one another, in a sort of improvised
dance. Public gardens could be planted on the summits of tower
blocks; game courts and other sports facilities could be set up in
underground parking garages; flea markets could be held in the
white marble halls, and all the strategies of real estate agents
could be transformed into everyday tactics of appropriation.
Another, older deputy suggested that the European
Quarter could create colonies in its own image throughout
Europe, just as Greek cities had spread during antiquity. After
all, there were imitations of certain European cities in China.
Couldn’t the European Quarter also be replicated throughout the
continent, exporting not only its architecture but also the new
modes of collective organization that it would come to embody?
Milan Teivos was delighted by this new idea and
proposed to put it at the top of the agenda for the next committee meeting. He was especially happy to see that the
new citizens were ready to immerse themselves in the life of
the city, as soon as an appeal was made to their collective
intelligence. That was a big change from the years before
the war, when all people, or almost all of them, seemed to
live in their own private little bubbles, leaving the work of
making the world to the cartels of the elite. Experts of every
kind had stripped ordinary people of their words and initiative,
caricaturing everything that came from them as naive and
shameful expressions of populism, so that they could keep
the work of managing things and people for themselves.
Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament
Beaulieu 24 / 1993 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval / Commission européenne – European Commission

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout / Commission européenne – European Commission


That evening, Finga returned to her apartment a bit worn out
by all she had seen and heard. She had decided not to accept Jacob’s
dinner invitation, so that she could have some quiet time alone in her
room. She had already brought home a big file that she was supposed
to go through that evening. All of this was quite different from her
peaceful  and rather underwhelming  life as a mother and homemaker
in eastern Hungary. She poured herself a glass of white wine and sat
down before the big bay window. She loved the nocturnal
panoramas  of illuminated  cities, like a sort of high-tech counterpart
of the starry  night. There was also something melancholy in seeing
men and women reduced to 1/72 scale-model figurines, as they lived their lives within the towering high rises, which looked like crates made of steel  and glass. Finga wavered between fascination
and repulsion, between an attraction to this architecture, which seemed so disproportionate, and a kind of reticence, which she found hard to explain.  Perhaps after living there for a month, in that windswept corner of the world, that feeling would fade and be replaced by a simpler and more straightforward joy. She shut the curtain and got to work.
Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout / Commission européenne – European Commission

A week after her induction, the Hungarian deputy Finga
Molnar attended her first meeting of the committee she had
signed up for. She had been drawn to its name: the Legends
Committee. She had asked Jacob to explain it, but he always
answered her questions indirectly, with a wry smile, as if he
wanted her to figure these things out for herself. Milan, who was
on hand to help the new deputies get a better understanding
of the institutions, was similarly vague and evasive about the
matter. Their uncommunicativeness only made Finga want to
know more. She could have signed up for any number of other
committees dealing with ecology, education, women’s issues,
and so on, but she had chosen, without a moment’s hesitation,
to tick the ‘Legends Committee’ box of the electronic form.
What was it about? Senior Adviser Franz, who was
presiding over the inaugural meeting—a position that would
rotate among members, in accordance with the tenets of wild
democracy— did not keep everyone in suspense for very long.

He stated that, especially before the war, in numerous surveys, many European citizens had clearly indicated that they did not
feel that they ‘belonged’ to any of the European institutions in
any meaningful way. They acknowledged that these institutions
were legitimate and useful, but they never developed any strong
or deep attachment to them; nothing gave them any sense of
emotional or collective involvement in these institutions. In a
certain sense, the war had unfortunately rectified this state of
affairs, by compelling everyone to take sides. To many people,
Europe nonetheless still seemed like a remote and abstract,
cold and impersonal entity, something nobody would ever
think of identifying with. Europe was suffering from a ‘deficit
of sympathy, narratives and symbols’ , the adviser declared as
he scrolled through a series of graphs and pictures that were
displayed on the screen. That is where the Legends Committee
came in: they were to invent emotional forms that, beyond
rational representation, would inspire strong feelings of being
European, feelings that would lead people to embrace their
continent, body and soul.

Covent Garden / 2007 / Art & Build / Commission européenne – European Commission
Chapelle Van Maerlant / 1908 / Chapelle pour l’Europe – Chapel for Europe

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Wouldn’t it be somewhat artificial to create some kind of
inspirational storytelling completely from scratch? A Spanish
member brought up this objection right away. The NE wasn’t
Marvel or Disney. Its role wasn’t to conjure up fake massculture
heroes. Wouldn’t that turn the Legends Committee
into just another vulgar PR agency, spending its time trying
to devise new kinds of product-packaging strategies to entice
consumers? Franz was not taken aback by these comments.
Quite the reverse: they were completely legitimate and did a
good job of stating the problem. The committee, he continued,
was not supposed to come up with some fantasyland that was
cut off from historical and social reality. Instead, on the basis of
European history—from ancient ideas about it in early Greek
texts to the inspiring work of the ‘founding fathers’ of Europe,
such as Robert Schuman, Altiero Spinelli and Jean Monnet—
they were to enable a founding epic to emerge. Anecdotes,
representations and fictional narratives could be created that would make the NE seem closer and more real to its citizenry.
Who knew, perhaps they would come up with a new mythology?
It was a huge undertaking, Franz noted, but they could already
get started on a small scale with the European Quarter, a place
that every visitor found distant and dismayingly neutral. Weren’t
they, in any case, going to redecorate the Charlemagne building?
And erect imposing statues of noteworthy Europeans in the
middle of the Schuman roundabout?
Finga spoke up to say that the procedure of selection
by random drawing—which had brought them all together in
the very heart of European politics—could also be applied here.
There could be a similar drawing involving everyone in the NE;
the photos of those who were picked could be projected round
the clock, on the facade of the Berlaymont, in a kind of giant
‘Who’s Who’ directory. To her great pleasure (and she blushed
even thinking about it later—if her husband and daughter could
only see her now!), the group was extremely receptive to this
idea, and some members even applauded.
Franz stressed once again that this did not involve
trying to create everything ex nihilo . They could also appeal to the lived experience of Europeans, especially during the
war. For four years, the entire continent had been torn apart by
ferocious battles and terrible attacks, but there had also been
many acts of bravery and heroic feats. In fact, a novelist had
just published a sort of War and Peace 2036, in which he used
real events to tell a number of tragic stories, particularly that of
a group of LGBT activists who had been captured and tortured
in the Netherlands. This was most certainly the direction their
work should take, Franz went on: from the millions of invisible
lives, concrete examples of moments of belonging and solidarity
could be brought out and given a symbolic reality. They went
on to organize several working groups focusing on graphic
representations, narratives, imagery and even music (a Finnish
deputy suggested that musicians and composers could be
brought together to write strange and disconcerting anthems
—some chansons de geste or other songs of heroic deeds—
to laud the European reconstruction effort). 
Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Chaussée d’Etterbeek / 2018Chaussée d’Etterbeek / 2018

Berlaymont / 1969 / Lucien De Vestel, Jean Gilson, André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission
Berlaymont / 2004 / Pierre Lallemand, Steven Beckers & Wilfried Van Campenhout / Commission européenne – European Commission

Because she wanted to get a more concrete idea of
what could be accomplished, Finga decided to spend the next
day by herself in the field. Perhaps walking around without an
adviser or a chaperone would give her a clearer sense of what
would be involved in the work of the Legends Committee. She
was beginning to get her bearings in the European Quarter, the
place that everyone around there called Eurotopie (Eurotopia).
Right after stepping out of her building, she took Froissart Street
to Jean Rey Square, which she cut across towards Leopold
Park. It was morning and everything was calm. Most people
were already at work. Only an occasional passer-by moved
along, like a figure at a firing range, marching stone-faced as
the bullets flew. Beside a street food truck, some environmental
activists in their green vests immediately noticed her NE badge.
They had probably come to the European Quarter so that they
could meet with and convey their proposals to some deputies,
in an effort to counteract the underground influence of industry
lobbyists. Finga went on her way, taking an uphill path. At the top of the park, she tried to get a panoramic overview of the
district, but the too-high towers, like bookends on a shelf, and
the construction cranes blocked the view. Two teenagers were
playing basketball in the asphalt court that was just behind the
‘Caprice des Dieux’ building. How could these places ever be
transformed into any kind of new utopia? The task seemed
colossal. It wasn’t something that could happen in the blink of
an eye. That was for sure. It would take time. Perhaps history,
by the scars it left in the raw concrete and stone, would help
breathe life into that infrastructure and transform it into something
of genius.
Finding herself before the small Brussels-Luxembourg
railway station, which was crushed in the sprawling tentacles
of a Parliament that had been stricken with elephantiasis, and
which, she noticed, was surmounted by some strange Christian
crosses, she thought of something she had said to Milan a few
days earlier: a city was not the sum total of its conduits and
ducts, its deeds and registers, its metal framework and walls
of glass. It was also a melody, yes, a melody, in which all of
those elements were mixed into a kind of enduring refrain, one that stuck in your ear, so that, once you heard its first three
notes, you could whistle the song all the way to the end. These
surprising admixtures of matter and meaning could be brought
out. You could let yourself be engulfed, bit by bit—without
even being aware of this and without necessarily seeking it
intentionally —by the atmospheres that, more than any other
more solid reality, merge the tangible with the emotional.
Accidental beauty.
However, the more she walked, protecting herself
from the gusting wind that was the true lord of the land (and
of Charlemagne Boulevard, in particular), the more she came
to appreciate this unloved place. She liked the signs that
were written in every language, the official plaques with their
gleaming letters, the euphoric and somewhat silly slogans,
the teasing shop signs and the optimistic notice boards (For
you, Europe is building a … right here). A whole mellifluous
hullabaloo of voices was reverberating through the streets,
a kind of representative microcosm of the globalized world.
She also liked the striking contrast between the ultramodern
buildings and the old private mansions embedded between them. It was lopsided, like life. There was no unity or harmony.
Everything professed, denoted and gave the impression of
unmitigated improvisation. And that was precisely what she
found commendable: here was a city that didn’t try to use an
ostentatious and deceptive decorum to hide the fact that it was
founded on human reality. Instead, it had been built piece by
piece, without an established identity or a clear plan, like each
existence itself: fragile, contradictory, and impressionable, all
too impressionable. She remembered the tem Milan had used
for this when she first arrived: ‘xeno-architecture’ .
The mythology that she began to imagine—for she
hadn’t forgotten the purpose of her walk—had very little to do
with heroes, saints and martyrs. Instead, it consisted in the
infra-ordinariness of these disparaged spots, these lunches in
the park, these rushed conversations in front of the subway,
these street vendors who spread their miraculous catch out on
the pavement: a brave new epic poem of the humdrum, the
minor and the mundane. For her, that was the fertile ground
for a neo-European saga: the delight of mediocre things,
the charm of the ordinary, and all the invisible things that made up the true stuff of the common and communal. When she got
back home, she tried to tidy up all of these impressions into
something she could share with her colleagues the next day at
the next meeting of the Legends Committee.

Résidence Palace / 1927 / Michel Polak / Centre de Presse international – International Press Center

Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen / European Parliament
Bâtiment Wilfried Martens / 2016 / Jaspers - Eyers / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Van Maerlant 1 / 1989 / Groep Planning / Comité économique et social et Comité des régions – European Economic
and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions
Le fil d’Ariane / 1991 / Jean-Paul Laenen

Square de Meeus 8 / 1978 / Michel Barbier / Commission européenne – European Commission

Van Maerlant 1 / 1989 / Groep Planning / Comité économique et social et Comité des régions – European Economic and Social
Committee and the Committee of the Regions
Breydel / 1989 / André & Jean Polak / Commission européenne – European Commission

Immeuble BULL / 1985 / René Stapels / Commission européenne – European Commission
Immeuble BULL / 2015 / DDS + / Commission européenne – European Commission

Finga had now been a denizen of the European
Quarter for six months. She had got herself situated. One can
be said to live in a place when one is familiar with the personal
history of other residents. Finga was already on a first-name
basis with the shopkeepers and security guards, had become
familiar with the neighbourhood landmarks and, in short, had
settled into a routine. She had become friends with Omar, the
town crier who announced the day’s headlines to passers-by
who were too tired to read the news on their phones. He always
added his own personal touch of funny or offbeat commentary.
Just about everyone knew him: he was the best-informed
person in the Quarter. Her work obligations as a deputy, and
especially her seat on the Legends Committee, didn’t leave
Finga any time to be a tourist, but she did like to wander off
around the neighbourhood whenever she had a free moment.
She had even bought a digital camera with her first paycheck
and took an endless number of photos, which were to be her
souvenirs after she returned to Hungary. She liked to drag her feet through the mud, which was as brown as a Trappist beer
and surrounded the many construction sites that temporarily
disfigured the Quarter. Walk along Law Street, disappear into
the paths of Cinquantenaire Park, get lost on the Chausée
d’Etterbeek Road, be filled with sensations down on the blacktop,
discover new works of post-Banksy graffiti art, spell out
silently the most recent critical demands spray-painted on
the mousy gray walls. She already had her favourite places:
the back alley close to the Jourdan Square, where the sun
shone down so softly at lunchtime, between noon and two; the
abandoned hall full of statues from the old EU, which were all
covered in transparent plastic tarps, a melancholy place where
what had once been opulent had faded and been thrown away,
and was now gathering dust; the white-tiled balcony on the
back of the Résidence Palace, where she could go to check
her email and read in peace. A whole compendium of urban
experiences brought heterogeneity and multiplicity, in the forms
of blocks of sensation. More than anything, these pathways
allowed her a certain freedom of thought. By now, she had left
far behind the sense of unreality that had haunted her before, when she made her first, very intimidated, entrance into the
Quarter on the bus with Jacob. It was true that, at times, she
still had that melancholy and gnostic sense of being a foreigner
abroad in the world; when she did, she relished it, for she was
at once inside and outside, partner and spectator. Then a new
life had begun to flourish in the Quarter. All the deputies from
the four corners of Europe had contributed the singularity of
their origins. This was different from before, in the old days,
when all the parliamentarians had come from the same social
class and had imposed a single and rather hollow way of life
upon the quarter. Now they were from all walks of life and social
backgrounds, and this was a breath of the fresh air of diversity.
A new geography appeared. There were common meals and
friendly debates. A real democratic life.
The European Quarter no longer resembled an
impersonal office district, where standardized employees,
with conventional and too easily predictable interests and
appetites, behaved almost like machines. It had taken on the
guise of a small city-world, a living patchwork of resonances
and inspirations. It was a body in transformation, a body that
was multiple and incomplete, in which different languages
and accents throbbed—a far cry from the stranglehold of
International English. The buildings hadn’t gone away, but it was
as if a new aura was pulsating around them. The crystal fortress,
with its false transparency, which had, in fact, hidden occult and
secretive political machinations, had given way to open and
sparkling enclaves. There, delegations of citizens from Romania
or Ireland could meet and interact with their deputies without
shame or resentment, and could present their new propositions.
On the squares that had been set up, mini-assemblies were
held. New buildings were being constructed here and there,
such as the People’s House community centre: this enormous
agora with a retractable roof could hold more than 200,000
people, and was going up on south Belliard Street. The Quarter
had never had a defined and centralized shape, but it had now
come to embrace its rhizomatic structure fully and confidently;
it revelled in its archipelago of edifices strewn haphazardly
across the land, like some wild colony of mushrooms.
The week before, Finga’s husband, who had got over
his bad attitude by that point, had finally come to visit, and was able to see that what she was doing was not just some kind
of joke being spread by pro-Europe propaganda. Even he
—someone who usually went around with a sceptical frown on
his face—has been impressed to see her, in her light-coloured
suit and her NE badge, scramble away night and day to try to
move her projects forward, defend a cause, or get an amendment
passed. He had gone back to Nyírbátor with the happy
knowledge that the sacrifice they had accepted had been both
necessary and worthwhile.

Eurosquare / 1999 / Montois Partners Architects / Commission européenne – European Commission

Covent Garden / 2007 / Art & Build / Commission européenne – European Commission

Rond-point Robert Schuman / 2018

Centre de conférence Albert Borschette / 1981 / Claude Emery, Jacques Baudon, Paul Hayot & Ernest C. Henry /
Commission européenne – European Commission

Black Pearl / 2015 / Art & Build / Commission européenne – European Commission

Not everything, however, was coming up roses.
The Quarter itself had come to harbour new tensions. Powerful
lobbyists had discreetly reappeared on the scene. During the
pre-war period, they had had no reason to conceal themselves
and were so well-established that residents of Brussels had
begun, ironically, to call the buildings by the names of the most
prominent capitalists of the day: the Berlaymont became the
Zuckerberg ; the Justus Lipsius was the Jeff Bezos; the Europa
was called the Bill Gates , etc. That period was over. The new
electoral and political structure was working to undo the quasiincestuous
bonds that lobbyists had maintained with the old
parliamentarians. At present, these lobbyists, with their tanningbooth
orange skin, were behaving more prudently, but were
finding new ways to cast their subtle net of insinuations and
threats; they were surrounding the Quarter, occupying some
of its pleasant and confidential apartments. On their little brass
plaques, enigmatic names were used to conceal their presence.
Their curtains were always drawn and people scurried from their black sedans, which only stopped at their front doors for
a few seconds.
Every day, junior executives in Armani suits went doorto-
door at the commission and parliament trying to convince
members that the businesses they represented (which were
always ready and willing to serve the public good) were making
good-faith efforts; they also discussed the benefits that members
could derive from this. One evening, Finga had herself
been approached at a wine bar by an elegant and gregarious
man; after they had had a few drinks, he discreetly slipped into
her purse a glossy colour brochure, which extolled the inestimable
merits of the company that paid him so handsomely.
Of course, they were not the only ones who tried to influence
public servants; many agents from nongovernmental organizations
involved with refugee issues, ecology, energy,
fair taxation, animal rights and so on also tried to meet with
NE members to present their points of view. However, the
lobbyists didn’t limit themselves to fine speeches and Excel
spreadsheets. In addition to their glossy brochures, they
also offered other, more exclusive and enticing benefits Their furtive presence infused the Quarter with a new
cold-war moral ambiance, fraught with shameful rumour and
guilty innuendo: a provocative and lamentable atmosphere of
obscure influences, illusory promises and bank transfers made
to off-shore accounts. They were a little like those oily, gloomy
ravens that would pick at the scraps at Leopold Park whenever
people turned their heads.
Covent Garden / 2007 / Art & Build / Commission européenne – European Commission

The Capital / 2009 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval / Service européen pour l’action extérieure – European External Action Service

Brussels had become the official capital of Europe
and the European Quarter its centre-less centre, the point of
departure for the trajectories of citizens who were seeking new
political approaches to social, cultural, migratory and ecological
concerns. The Legends Committee had begun to knit together
a whole network of symbolic material around this life. Unlike the
throwaway balderdash produced by public relations agencies,
this fabric showed what all Europeans had in common, in their
history and their inner lives, not by closing them off in their
specificity, but by opening them up to the world.
On this day, Finga was to arrive very early for the
commission’s official unveiling of a giant plasma screen, with
a video platform that would allow any citizen to air a grievance,
submit a petition or express an opinion. It was a sort of
Speakers’ Corner 3.0. She hoped to see Milan there. As she
hurried along, she came across Omar—who was commenting
on the latest sports scores with a megaphone—walked under
the suspended walkway on Belliard Street and immediately turned left towards Luxembourg Square. Since she was
not weighed down by the requirement to make a profit, she
felt a certain sense of lightness, which brought a feeling of
emancipation in its wake, and so she continued on intrepidly
to her little event. The smooth surface of the gray concrete
beneath her feet seemed almost elegant. She overtook
a group of young women who were out jogging in neoncoloured
As she walked around a large scaffolding of multicoloured
tubes that went up to the top of a building that was
home to a microcredit bank, Finga heard a lively, cheerful
clamouring. It was the first verses of one of the new anthems—
the songs of Eurotopie—ringing out in the crisp morning air.
When she arrived at her destination, a disparate crowd of
people had already gathered there. They were waiting relatively
patiently for the enormous cloth covering the wall to be lifted.
This honour had not been reserved for some manager, one of
those who, in earlier days, had grown accustomed to thinking
that his public duty placed him above everyone else; such
a figure, suffused with the certainty of entitlement, would, on every possible occasion, make audiences suffer through
dull speeches, which were supposed to demonstrate his
extraordinary magnanimity. No! Today, the name of a young
boy had been pulled from the hat, and there he was, waiting in
nervous excitement beside the new monument for the signal
to begin the unveiling.
Afterwards, Finga went back to her office at parliament.
She went through security and then took the elevator up to
the sixth floor. Some workers were there repairing the cabling
system. There were wires hanging down from the drop ceiling to
the floor, like some ultramodern installation in an art gallery. In a
flight of fancy, she imagined that the whole of the so-called intangible
world was actually composed of billions of lines and fibers,
which ran through the world like ancient songlines of the indigenous
people of Australia. Hidden infrastructures made possible
everything that seemed free from any conditioning. Jacob was
waiting for her. He had become her parliamentary assistant.
It was he who helped her read all the files and legislative proposals,
schedule her meetings with citizens, and write the weekly
activity reports, which were posted on the NE website.

Jacob wanted to show her something. He had her
follow him out of the office. They took the service stairs, rather
than the elevator, and walked up several floors. They couldn’t
have been too far from the roof. Sure enough, Jacob opened
a door and they found themselves on the vast rooftop of the
building. Finga was so surprised to step out into open air that
it took a bit of time for her eyes to adjust. A large fruit orchard
had been planted up there and they could hear the buzzing of
swarms of insects drunk on pollen and nectar. There were rows
of apple and plum trees, aisles of cherry trees blossoming like
those on the winding banks of the Kamo River in Kyoto, and
thickets of raspberry and blueberry plants. Some gardeners
were busy picking fruit and trimming the trees. In the street
below—narrow canyons into which the sun hardly penetrated—
no one had any idea that a garden like that was suspended in
the air above. Jacob was pleased that he’d been able to take
Finga by surprise. He had been saving up this visit so that
he would still have something to spring on her. There were
many others just like this, he told her, hidden on rooftops,
in courtyards, a whole sprawling network of green and fertile
zones producing fresh, clean air. The European Quarter
had certainly changed since the beginning of the millennium.
Touches of greenery and diversity had daubed colour all
over its more formal appearances. Up here on the roof of the
Paul-Henri Spaak building, like atop the crazily tall Ballard
residential high-rise, the future was being made, a future
that would seek a precarious balance between technological
progress and social justice, democratic advances and
sustainable development.

Rue de la Science 11 / Atelier d’Architecture Champs Elysées / Commission européenne – European Commission

Résidence Palace / 1927 / Michel Polak / Centre de Presse international – International Press Center
Bâtiment Wilfried Martens / 2016 / Jaspers - Eyers / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Bâtiment Jacques Delors / 2006 / Art & Build
Espace Léopold / 1999 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament

Lex 2000 / 2008 / Jaspers - Eyers / Conseil de l’Union européenne – Council of the European Union

Bâtiment Jacques Delors / 2006 / Art & Build / Comité économique et social et Comité des régions – European Economic and Social
Committee and Committee of the Regions

The air was crisp and full of fine particles. A cappuccinobrown
cloud covered the city. It was the end of the afternoon
on another roof terrace, the Berlaymont this time, as wide as
a landing area for cargo planes. From this vantage point, there
was a 360° view of the European Quarter. From there, it was
easy to see concretely how the old idea of urban planning had
been taken to task here. A true public humiliation for those
who claimed they knew how to build a city. Finga had just
poured herself a glass of wine and was looking at the towering,
reflective cubes emerging from the more traditional roof lines.
In particular, she traced her eyes over the long curve of the new
elevated walkway, lined with trees and gardens, that went from
Law Street to the Parliament. Minuscule figures of people could
be seen walking, exercising and lounging on the grass.
This nonindigenous architecture, which, from the
outside, seemed like a barbaric catch-all of influences and
accidents, had ended up having its own specificity. Now
that she lived here, Finga could recognize it from the first glimpse: an urban silhouette born of drunken, facetious zoning,
a composite array of diverse propositions that somehow
made sense.
Milan came up to her and smiled. He set his glass
down on the railing and asked her if she was happy here
in this Quarter, which had once had the reputation of shortcircuiting
the world outside and withdrawing inwards, into its
own self-replicating enclave of interiority. The only response
he got was a wide, open smile with no hint of self-exhibition.
He understood.
Espace Léopold / 1997 / Atelier d’Architecture de Genval in association with the CERAU, Atelier Vanden Bossche & CRV
Jean van Pottelsberghe / Parlement européen – European Parliament



6'56” (Jurgen Maelfeyt), EUROTOPIE, 2018 © EUROTOPIE
Curators  :
Co-curated by Roxane Le Grelle

Artistic director :
Sébastien Lacomblez

Spatial installation :
Traumnovelle & Roxane Le Grelle
with Sébastien Lacomblez

Authors :
Eurocode 7 -Traumnovelle & Roxane Le Grelle with Dennis Pohl
Journey to Eurotopie - Bruce Bégout

Photography :
Philippe Braquenier

Collages :
Claire Trotignon

Political advisor:
Lucile Rossat

Graphic design :
6’56’’ (Jurgen Maelfeyt, Jonas Temmerman, Lien Van Leemput)
Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles
(initiative de la Cellule architecture), en collaboration
avec Wallonie-Bruxelles International

Assistant curators:
Jordan Jacob Zekri
Nina Closson
Apolline Vrancken

Research and developpment :
Francesca Pedroni
Macha Bouteiller
Clarisse d’Hoffschmidt
Romain Deboulle
Kalliopi Dimitrakopoulou
Arthur Duval
Anne-Marie Fagoaga
Camille Gardien
Jonas Huchet
Jeanne Krings
Cassian Nandin
Mattia Passeri
Antoine Reboul
Caroline Roure
Luna Van Aubel