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Office Complex “Biotope”

The Challenge of a Metropolitan City

Henning Larsen | KeurK

Office Complex “Biotope”
By Luca Maria Francesco Fabris -

For centuries at the crossroads between French and Flemish cultures and a major industrial and trading hub, the French city of Lille has a long and important history. Located at the center of the triangle formed by Paris, Brussels and London, this capital of France’s Département du Nord was catapulted to contemporary architectural status in 1989 when the extension of the European high speed rail network led to the building of Euralille, the business district designed by OMA that revolutionized the city and gave renewed importance to a section of the old town that had been
cut-off from the mainstream, first by the demolition of the imposing city walls designed by Vauban, and then by the arrival of the railway line. Lille tackled and solved the problem of its disjointed layout, developing into a metropolitan city that thinks big.

This same can-do mindset was behind the new drive, started in 2000, to deal with another central but equally marginalized sector of the city. Called Euralille 2 and just 800 linear meters south of the first Euralille project, the area has undergone gradual development, this year seeing one of its final additions: a bioclimatic office building. Designed by Henning Larsen architecture practice in partnership with the French studio KeurK, the new office block’s rigorous environmentally sustainable program embodies a new bioclimatic paradigm for tertiary buildings. The intriguing story of how it came into being adds to its interest.

This 7-story 30,000 sq. m building was commissioned as part of France’s bid to have Lille awarded the headquarters of the prestigious European Medicines Agency, which in the wake of Brexit had to move from London to continental Europe. When, however, Amsterdam was adjudicated the EMA headquarters, the Lille building became the central offices of MEL (Métropole Européenne de Lille), the public umbrella body grouping the 95 municipalities of the...

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