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The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg (France), now covers virtually the entire European continent, with its 47 member countries. Founded on 5 May 1949 by 10 countries, the Council of Europe seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals.
The Palais de l’Europe
Designed by French architect Henry Bernard and inaugurated in 1977, the Palais de l’Europe is the Council of Europe’s principal building. With its entrance flanked by the flags of all the Council’s member states, the structure of the Palais – a solid, fortress-like exterior which contrasts with its gentler and more fluid curved interior – reflects the values of strength in unity, trust, and cordiality that define the work carried out within its walls. The outer layer of the Palais is a strong mixture of red, silver and golden-brown colours, which are found on the concrete of the buttresses, the aluminium-covered façade and the vast windows of the conference rooms respectively. In front of the Palais a gently sloping lawn sweeps down from its main steps. Once the site of the predecessor to the Palais de l’Europe – the Maison de l’Europe – this swathe of green land is home to several works of art which have been presented to the Council of Europe.
Agora is the Council of Europe’s newest building, taking its name from the ancient Greek word for an open place of assembly. It was inaugurated in April 2008 and designed by the architectural firms Art & Build (Brussels) and Denu et Paradon (Strasbourg). Voted the best office building of the year in 2008 (MIPIM award), the Agora combines modernity, efficiency and respect for the environment. Behind its large glazed facade are two atria, which are enclosed by meeting rooms clad in pre-patinated copper. Covering this structure is an eye-catching cantilevered metal roof, which is topped by two fabric solar chimneys, shaped to allow natural ventilation of the atria. This progressive building bears witness to the Council of Europe’s commitment to environmental responsibility.
The Human Rights Building
Inaugurated in 1995, the Human Rights Building curves alongside the Ill, the river that flows through Strasbourg. It is one of the most striking achievements of the great British architect Lord Richard Rogers, who also designed the Centre Georges-Pompidou, London’s Millennium Dome, and the Welsh National Assembly building. Situated across the water from the European Union’s Louise Weiss European Parliament building, the design of the Human Rights Building is true to Lord Rogers’ functional and modernist style. Steeped in symbolism (the façade evokes the scales of justice), its contemporary materials (the liberal use of glass is a metaphor for transparency) are used to striking effect. The front of the Human Rights Building is formed by the two cylindrical chambers of the European Court of Human Rights. These two towering structures link the main sections of the building: public spaces comprising intricate circular elements of metal, glass and Vosges sandstone and a simple and more sober office area.
The European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and HealthCare (EDQM)
The new building of the EDQM sits to the rear of the Agora. Designed by architects from the Brussels-based firm Art & Build and the Strasbourg-based Denu and Paradon, it was inaugurated in March 2007. The curved glass and wooden structure combines a modern aesthetic with contemporary functionality and houses laboratories, offices and meeting rooms that serve the organisation’s expanding role in monitoring the quality of medicines in Europe and further afield.
The European Youth Centre
Designed by the Norwegian architects Lund and Slaatto, this functional, contemporary building has received tens of thousands of young people from all backgrounds since 1972. It is located in the Wacken neighbourhood. The European Youth Centre, an outstanding example of Scandinavian architecture, blends the rawness of concrete and aluminium to striking effect.