In the early 1950’s, with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and as a result of the policy of a ‘headquarters city’, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg became the provisional site in the early 1950s of several European institutions. The country and the city were thus gambling on a future as a fully-fledged capital of the EU. During this period, however, housing the European institutions in the city centre and under the best conditions was a difficult task – thus setting the seal on the future of the Kirchberg Plateau. Hardly a kilometer from the city centre, this area was at the time given over entirely to agriculture. Uncluttured by buildings and with land reserves of some 365 hectares, it offered enough space to offer the best possible conditions for accommodating the emerging European Union. So it was that the Fund for the Urbanization and Development (The Fund) of the Kirchberg Plateau was brought into being by the Act of 7th August, 1961, with the aim of purchasing land on the Kirchberg and developing a new part of the city. The Fund’s first task was the 1963 construction of the Grande Duchess Charlotte Bridge spanning over the Alzette valley gap and so connecting the Kirchberg Plateau to the city of Luxemburg.
Carried out by Jourdan + Müller PAS in association with architects Schemel and Wirtz, the first European institution building was built in Luxemburg, the Bàtiment Alcide De Gasperi(the Hèichaus) at the height of 22 storeys, it was the first tower building to be built in Luxemburg. The building was occupied till the end of 1990 by the Secrètariat Gènéral of the European Parliament.
Today, with the exception of the European Publications Office located closed to the railway station, all of the European institutions in Luxembourg are based on the Kirchberg Plateau, in the European District.
The demand by the rapidly expanding national and international banking sector in the Grand Duchy for land suited to construction became particulary fierce during the 1980’s, and continued into the 1990s. A large number of Luxemburgish and foreign banks thus set up their headquarters on the eastern side of the Plateau, to the North of the Avenue J.F. Kennedy, in the plateau’s new banking area of the Kiem District, and then in the neighbouring Grünewald district, to the south. Among these are several architectural highlights: the HypoVereinsBank building (by the architect Richard Meier) and that of Deutsche Bank (designed by Gottfried Böhm).
Attributing to the construction around the same time of the motorway bypass to the south of Luxemburg city, Avenue J.F. Kennedy remains the main artery on the Kirchberg bisects the plateau from east to west over a distance of 3.5km.
The decision of the Edinburgh Summit of the European Council, held on the 11th and 12th of December 1992, to locate the offices of the European institutions permanently in the various capitals of the Union lent weight to the re-evaluation of the long-term developement plan for the Kirchberg Plateau.
The EU memberships accelerated with numerous concession contracts bequeathed spatial consequenses on Kirchberg‘s growth. Through those years, diverse building activities took place on the Plateau Kirchberg, including:
- The European Commission (Jean Monnet Building, JMO) in 1978
- The Bàtiment extension of the European Court of Justice in year 1979
- The European Parliament (Konrad Adenauer Building) in 1987.
- The Court of Auditors completed was completed in 1988.
- The European Court of Justice and the European Investment Bank, both aa extension (1977, 1978) in order to host workplaces for the new added European Union members.
Following the decision of the European Council’s Edinburgh Summit in 1992 to situate several European Institutions permanently in Luxemburg. The Fund, in 1996, entrusted a study of the European District to Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, who created the triangular form of the Place de l’Europe. This is the setting of the Nouveau Centre de Confèrences et de Congrés International Kirchberg.
The western gateway to the Plateau is formed by the two 19-storey towers of Porte de l‘Europe, the work of architects Bofill, Gubbini and Linster, which stands on either side of the Avenue J.F. Kennedy.
In context to the expansion of the 27 members of the EU and the consequent expansion of the European District, the Fund continued the re-evaluation launched in 2008. The aim is to improve the flow of traffic for both cars and public transport as well as to improve pedestrian access, and also to create a mixed fabric of buildings and to strenghten the link with the Place de l‘Europe.
Place de l’Europe boasts at it’s heart, the Luxemburg Philharmonie concert hall; the work of the French architect Christian de Portzamparc. This central masterpiece in the words of Bofill, built following an international architectural competition in 1996, was inaugurated on the 28th of June 2005.
At the western bottom end on the site of the old Fort Thüngen, the Museum of Modern Art Grand Duch Jean the ‘Mudam’, designed by the American architect I. M. Pei was inaugurated in 2006. In this way, two great and innovative Luxemburgish cultural institutions have found their place within the fabric of the European institutions.