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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

New EU headquarters

This explains a lot:

The European Union is moving into a new headquarters in Brussels, which features a huge glass atrium enclosing a bulging, lantern-like structure.

See an earlier posting here from way back about Parkinson’s Other Law.

LATER: Parkinson explains.

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41 comments to New EU headquarters

  • Mal Reynolds (Serenity)

    Nice piece by Dan Hannan on this in the Washington Examiner.

    “Late, over-budget, wanting any sense of human proportion, labyrinthine, inaccessible, built to overawe: Here is the EU in glass and concrete.”

    “Comfortable, accountable democracies do things on a human scale. Pyramids and ziggurats and soaring temples tend to be markers of extractive states”

    “There’s a theory that you should sell your shares in any company whose headquarters become too ostentatious. An investor applying that dictum to the EU would be panicking now.”

  • When I saw that pictures a few days ago, I was immediately reminded of your earlier article Brian 😉

  • Cesare

    ‘Over budget’, perhaps but Overwrought sounds more like it, although it does suggest an updated version of the sphere from the BBC series The Prisoner.

  • Sam Duncan

    It was developed in response to the need for increased capacity at the European Council and the Council of the European Union following the introduction of new member states in 2004.

    Well, they’ll soon have one less to worry about.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I, too, remembered your 2006 post well and a similar one on your own blog where you quoted Parkinson at length. I don’t suppose you have any record what you linked to in that post under the text “already there”? The link no longer works but it had the address http://lib.novgorod.net/DPEOPLE/PARKINSON/parkinson.txt#006. Memory is a funny thing. Though I have completely forgotten many things that must have loomed far larger in my life in 2006, I sort-of remember that I enjoyed reading that very link.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    The Dezeen article says that the original estimate of €240 million for the “Europa” building has increased to over €320 million.

    Strict justice compels me to say that compares well to our local equivalent:

    Cost of moving MPs out of parliament for repairs could exceed £4bn

    Though it may not be comparing like with like, and, like, I like the Palace of Westminster.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Here is the Parkinson posting that Natalie refers to:

    http://www.brianmicklethwait.com/index.php/weblog/comments/professor_c_northcote_parkinson_on_the_edifice_complex/

    I’ve also added it to this posting.

  • John B

    Home for the European Onion?

    Well it does make you cry.

  • Gene

    “The need for increased capacity” is, I assume, referring to physical space as opposed to some other usage of “capacity”?

    If so, why solve the problem by making a building that contains such vast quantities of empty, unusable space?

  • Runcie Balspune

    I thought that was the Curse of the New HQ, is that the same thing?

  • mike

    “When I saw that pictures a few days ago, I was immediately reminded of your earlier article Brian.”

    I was immediately reminded of the “eggs” from Aliens. This is where I would use a “flamethrower” emoticon, if there was one.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Several millenia back there was an SF novel entitled The Egg-Shaped Thing. [I found it too dreadfully awful to finish, and that’s all I remember about it, except that today’s automobiles are an incessant reminder of the title. (They’re also designed so as to look pretty much like the horrible shoes, I guess offspring of the “running shoes” of 25 years ago or some such, that seem to be the only casual shoe available these days, yecch.)]

    Anyhow, the photo makes me think of some Egg encased in a fully protective cube built its Alien progenitors so as to guarantee that no harm will come to the Egg within. The Aliens have established themselves as the Supreme Rulers of Earth, and the Egg is the womb in which their entire progeny are developing. As such it must be protected and guarded at all cost, or at least at all cost to their Earthling slaves. ….

    However, it’s a good photo as such, Brian. ;>)

  • Julie near Chicago

    PS. Having posted the foregoing before seeing mike’s comment just above, I see that he had the same sort of reaction I did. :>)

    However, I never did see Aliens, so was unaware of its Egg, or Eggs.

  • Kevin B

    At first glance I thought; “It might look better when the scaffolding comes down.”, then I read the article and found out that it’s meant to look like that.

    As for Parkinson’s Other Law, don’t get your hopes up. I’ve been reading about the imminent collapse of the euro, the EU and all it’s evil works for almost as long as I’ve been hearing that working fusion power is only twenty years away.

    No such luck on any count.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . working fusion power is only twenty years away.”

    Always reminds me of that sign you see behind bars:

    “Free Beer Tomorrow.”

  • Julie near Chicago

    Or, you Brits’ old saying: “There’s never jam today.”

  • djc

    “is only twenty years away”… always has been and always will be.

  • Stonyground

    The same principle seems to apply to the ‘CO2 causes dangerous climate change’ meme. I have been looking forward to the world waking up to this nonsense for decades now.

  • Mr Ed

    Total waste, there’s a perfectly good ready-made alternative In the EU, one careless previous owner who had a bad Christmas.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yeah, Mr Ed, but I can’t watch it because I have to sign in “to confirm my age,” and as everyone knows I’m only 13….

  • Natalie Solent (Essex), December 16, 2016 at 3:36 pm: “The Dezeen article says that the original estimate of €240 million for the “Europa” building has increased to over €320 million.”

    Amateurs; the Scottish parliament building went 11 times over budget! Our local parliament building rivals the Edinburgh trams for cost overruns.

    The picture reminded of a Borg cube. Happily, we will be unassimilated!

  • ap

    It looks like the assembly building for a death star.

    (You might need to reconsider that Brexit thing.)

  • PersonFromPorlock

    John B
    December 16, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Home for the European Onion?

    That was so apposite that I looked to see if anyone else had described the interior sphere as “The European Onion”. So far as I can see, you are the first. Well done!

  • The external structure is wonderful, just imagine how many EU officials and bureaucrats you could get hanging around the outside, probably a couple of hundred.

    You’d need some sort of Akela crane for health and safety obviously. Wouldn’t want to injure your executioners would you?

  • And presumably Apple computers is about to go from world leader to “who“? in a few years as well 😀

  • Shlomo Maistre

    I do largely concur with the notion that constructed displays of extravagance are often (very) poorly veiled attempts to project attributes the institutions represented by said constructions do not, in fact, have. The EU through its “huge glass atrium enclosing a bulging, lantern-like structure” appears to protest too much. But why do the Samizdatistas and commentariat who agree (seems to be many people here) think this happens? I’m genuinely curious.

    The bottom line is that empiricists/inductive reasoning precludes concluding that nothing great begins great. After all – are ideas such as “individual rights” “personal liberty”, and “rule of law” not considered great philosophical principles by many here? When were these ideas not great? You see, empiricism on matters of epistemology may not preclude noticing the ironic consequences of human vanity, but it does preclude understanding certain aspects of reality that drive these ironical and self-destructive human tendencies.

    Ironically, for the record, it’s not the ideas of individual rights, personal liberty, etc that are “great” – it’s the religious fervor with which so many believe in them and the real-world results they have achieved under banners bearing these slogans that have elevated, glorified, and infused these concepts with greatness.

    I think that seeing how I (and I’d argue Joseph de Maistre) come to largely agree with the broad perspective here – that ostentatious displays of power/wealth tend to reflect waning capacity to wield/generate it – is a chance to see how deductive reasoning interprets the world and yet comes to very similar conclusion.

    Buildings are designed not only for their occupants to carry out their jobs properly, but often also for the institutions they represent to claim functions in society (like names). But buildings must be built and no claim to any function in society is entirely compatible with all other claims! Thus, indeed, we see one way in which a degree of disorder is endemic to any society and a pinch of vanity is inherent to any human action. Anyway, though.. What, the tender reader inquires, is rather similar to buildings in this manner? Names.

    Joseph de Maistre:

    It’s remarkable, by the way, how aptly de Maistre’s point about the Tuileries relate to the EU today. Indeed the EU is quite literally ” inhabited by prostitutes and thieves”!

    Finally, he has [falsely] believed that because he was able to form institutions, he could all the more naturally borrow them from other nations, importing them ready made, with their original name, to enjoy of them the same advantages as had their first possessors.

    […]

    Since names partake of nothing arbitrary and originate, like all things, more or less immediately in God, we must not believe that man has the unrestricted right of naming even those things of which he has some right to consider himself the author and of imposing names on them to suit the ideas he forms of them.

    […]

    This rule is the same, whether it concerns political or material creation. For example, nothing is better known in Greek history than the word Ceramicus. Athens had none more magnificent. Long after it had lost its great men and its political significance, Atticus, then in Athens, wrote pretentiously to his illustrious friend: The other day, finding myself in the Ceramicus, etc., and Cicero teased him about it in his reply.* What is the intrinsic meaning of this famous word Tuilerie?** Nothing could be more ordinary. But heroes’ remains mixed with this ground have consecrated it, and the soil has consecrated the name in turn. It is curious that at Such a great distance in time and space this same word TUILERIES, formerly famous as the name of a place of burial, should again be dignified under the name of a palace. The personage who arrived to inhabit the Tuileries did not attempt to give the building some imposing name to match its splendor. If he had made this mistake, there was no reason that the following day this place should not have been inhabited by prostitutes and thieves.

    […]

    There is another reason worth considering which should also induce us to mistrust any pompous name given a priori. Man’s conscience almost always warns him of the imperfections of the work he has just produced. Rebellious pride, which cannot deceive itself, tries at least to deceive others by inventing an honorable name which implies precisely the opposite merit. This invention, consequently, instead of really attesting the excellence of the work, is a clear acknowledgement of the flaws which characterize it

    […]

    Let us return to the general principle, Man has not, or has no longer, the right to name things (at least, in the times referred to). We must realize clearly that the most respectable names have a plebeian origin in all languages. The name is never commensurate with the thing; the thing always glorifies the name. The name must germinate, so to speak, or else it is false. What did the word throne originally signify? Seat, or even stool. What does scepter mean? A staff to lean upon.* However, the staff of kings was soon distinguished from all others, and this name, with its new meaning, has subsisted for three thousand years. What is nobler in literature and more humble in its beginnings than the word tragedy? What has been more favored in our language than the almost repugnant word drapeau, raised and ennobled by the warrior’s lance? Many other names might be mentioned in corroboration – Senate, Dictator, Consul, Emperor, Cardinal, Marshal, etc. We shall conclude with the titles Constable and Chancellor, given to two eminent dignitaries of modern times. The first once meant merely master of the stable;** the second, the man who stands behind a railing (to prevent his being trampled by the crowd of suppliants).

    […]

    Let us return to the general principle, Man has not, or has no longer, the right to name things (at least, in the times referred to). We must realize clearly that the most respectable names have a plebeian origin in all languages. The name is never commensurate with the thing; the thing always glorifies the name. The name must germinate, so to speak, or else it is false. What did the word throne originally signify? Seat, or even stool. What does scepter mean? A staff to lean upon.* However, the staff of kings was soon distinguished from all others, and this name, with its new meaning, has subsisted for three thousand years. What is nobler in literature and more humble in its beginnings than the word tragedy? What has been more favored in our language than the almost repugnant word drapeau, raised and ennobled by the warrior’s lance? Many other names might be mentioned in corroboration – Senate, Dictator, Consul, Emperor, Cardinal, Marshal, etc. We shall conclude with the titles Constable and Chancellor, given to two eminent dignitaries of modern times. The first once meant merely master of the stable;** the second, the man who stands behind a railing (to prevent his being trampled by the crowd of suppliants).

    Emphasis mine.

  • Eric

    What the hell? Are they hatching a dragon in there?

  • Runcie Balspune

    And presumably Apple computers is about to go from world leader to “who“? in a few years as well

    If you are trying to disprove the theory, are you looking for a wager? I’d check out the news first.

  • Mark

    Humungous great zit, about to burst

  • If you are trying to disprove the theory, are you looking for a wager?

    What a bizarre thing to write, I was agreeing with the theory.

  • MadRocketSci

    Interesting that you guys mentioned the alien appearance:

    If the intent of the architect was to portray something alien and uncompromising, imposed on the surrounding cityscape/terrain without the slightest thought, or perhaps with the intent of overriding the preexisting architecture and life of the city; then his statement is coming through loud and clear to me.

    Reminds me of the Combine towers in Half-Life 2: Otherworldly, and speared jarringly into human brick and mortar cities as if dropped from orbit.

  • MadRocketSci

    BTW: It looks like it would be absolutely hellish to work there. It’s the very archetype of “open plan” – no privacy, no nooks, no space that it yours. Everything is visible to whoever looks out from inside the egg. 😛

  • Julie near Chicago

    MRS: Yes. Very good point.

  • Paul Marks

    If anyone still supports the E.U. after seeing this – they are beyond help.

  • bobby b

    Frankly, I’m surprised at the relative smallness and low cost of the building meant to house the infrastructure of the EU.

    I would have expected something on a much grander scale, and more easily defended from popular uprising or terrorism.

    The interior “lantern” structure looks like a copy of a structure inside of a courthouse I remember in (I think – it’s been years) Albany, New York. Nothing new or groundbreaking.

    Heck, here in Minnesota, we just finished building a football stadium – basically a big hollow shell – and paid over $1 billion for it. (Roughly 800,000 pounds.)

    And I bet the land prices are a lot higher in Brussels than in Minneapolis.

  • Jacob

    I applaud the beautiful colors used in this building.

    Architecture suffered a dreadful period since WW2, dominated by the horrible “beton brut” and no less horrible Le Corbusier. Color in buildings was a NO! NO! GOD FORBID! TABU!

    This building, whatever the shortcomings of the institution that built it, is COLORFUL. And beautiful.
    Hurrah to colors!

    Don’t let your ideology overwhelm you aesthetics. The building might be useless, not functional, unnecessary, expensive. But it is beautiful. (At least appears so from the photos. I need to see it in person to be sure).

  • Don’t let your ideology overwhelm you aesthetics.

    Indeed. I rather like fascist architecture and think the SS had magnificent uniforms. No need to accept the ideology they represented though. And I quite like the aesthetics of the building above (that I and every EU taxpayer financed) and look forward to it being turned into an upmarket restaurant post-EU.

  • […] Via Samizdata, the new HQ: […]

  • Jacob

    Another thought: Parkinson’s law is about new, luxurious and expensive buildings signifying that the owner enterprise is in decline.
    This law applies, probably, only to real, commercial enterprises. It does not apply to government enterprises or ventures (like the EU in this case). Government bodies have more lives that a cat, and never decline, they always grow, no matter how many expensive new buildings they build.

    A case in point: the horrible UN headquarters building in NY (Designed by Le Corbusier and Niemayer) and completed in 1952. The UN was never more than a useless pretext to wasting good people’s money, but, alas, there is no sign of it’s possible demise.
    A renovation of that building was done between 2007-16, at a cost of US$ 2.15 billion. Trump (yes, the Donald) wrote at the time that for this money he can build 10 new buildings of the same size.

  • Jacob

    “”I did the 90-story building opposite the United Nations for $360 million, and it’s brand new. So how does it cost $1.6 billion to fix the building?” he [Trump] asked.”

    The UN building is 50 stories high. The renovation final cost was 2.15 billion $.
    http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=80604

  • Andrew

    My first impression: I thought most governments didn’t like transparency.