Until the mid-70s, Council of Europe staff worked in a provisional concrete building known as the ‘House of Europe’ which stood on what is now the lawn leading up to the main headquarters and had previously been a tennis court that was used as an ice rink in winter.
The new building took almost five years to build, with the first stone laid on 15 May 1972 by Swiss politician Pierre Graber and the inauguration ceremony in January 1977 led by French President Giscard d’Estaing, with Strasbourg city represented by its Mayor, Pierre Pflimlin. It was designed by French Architect Henry Bernard who had worked intensively on the reconstruction of Caen after the Second World War and had led the design team that created the ‘Maison de la Radio’ in Paris with its innovative round design.
The Palais de l’Europe is constructed of glass, aluminium and pink concrete, with the Parliamentary Assembly debating chamber situated at the centre, surrounded by seventeen meeting rooms and 800 offices. It cost 210 million French francs, with the cost shared between the member states. Henry Bernard intended it to symbolise the solidity of union with its fortress-like exterior and to reflect the values of strength in unity, trust and friendship with its gentler and more fluid curved interior. It was used as a meeting place for the European Union’s European Parliament until it moved to its own purpose-built premises in 1999.