HOUSE OF EUROPEAN HISTORY IN THE EASTMAN BUILDING IN BRUSSELS
The House of European History is an initiative of the European Parliament launched by Hans-Gert Pöttering in February 2007, in his inaugural speech as President of the European Parliament. The House of European History aims to promote a better understanding of European history and integration through a new cultural institution and exhibition centre.
In June 2009, the Bureau of the European Parliament decided to assign the former Eastman Dental Hospital located in the Parc Léopold in Brussels to the future museum and, in July, launched an international architectural competition. On 31 March 2011, the winning practice Atelier d'architecture Chaix & Morel et associés (FR), JSWB Architects (DE) and TPF (BE) was appointed to carry out the renovation and extension of the building.
End of May 2012, Europa Nostra has been alerted by Europa Nostra Belgium, its Belgian country representation, about the alleged threats to the former Eastman Institute due to the plan to alter its volume fundamentally in order to adapt it to the needs of the future House of European History.
Europa Nostra sees all the merits of the creation of a House of European History which would help to promote - among Europe’s citizens - the knowledge of and the respect for Europe’s culture and history, with its “unity in diversity”; but at the same time, Europa Nostra hopes that such a project will also duly respect the authenticity and uniqueness of the historic Eastman building in which the House of European History will be located as of 2014.
Although the Eastman Institute has not been placed on the Brussels’ list of protected buildings, this building has an undeniable historic and artistic value and is widely considered as a masterpiece of the Swiss architect Michel Polak. As far as the Parc Léopold is concerned, this historic green oasis in the centre of the European quarter in Brussels has been designated as a listed and protected area.
For this reason, citizens and heritage organisations from Brussels and Belgium, are very critical about the architectural plan selected by the European Parliament. According to their opinion, the new structure which is supposed to be added to the Eastman Building alters radically the volumes and the proportions of the existing building and, as a consequence, alters the skyline and the integrity of the entire Parc Léopold. Therefore, Europa Nostra Belgium, as well as some other heritage organisations from Belgium, has submitted a detailed letter of complaints prior to the recent session of the “Commission de concertation de la Ville de Bruxelles”, pleading for the necessary adaptation of the original architectural project.
On 12 July 2012, Europa Nostra wrote directly to Mr Pöttering, MEP (EPP) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the House of European History, to draw his attention to the serious concerns of the Belgian heritage community, based on a careful examination of the limited information which has been made publicly available on the architectural plan selected for the adaptation of the Eastman Building. In its letter, Europa Nostra recommended to Mr Pöttering to organise an open dialogue on the issue with representatives of the local community and the heritage circles concerned. Europa Nostra, together with EN Belgium, is closely monitoring further developments. If needed, Europa Nostra and EN Belgium will undertake further action, possibly jointly with other heritage organisations.
Mr Hans-Gert Pöttering replied to the letter.