Download full Competition Brief. View the list of jurors.

On January 1st, 2040, Berlin, Germany will become the location of both the six month Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the yearly Cultural Capital of Europe. In order to mark this important moment for Berlin, the office of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in conjunction with Monsanto Corporation, are hosting an ideas competition for the design of an architectural system that can house the administrative programs of the Office of the Presidency while incorporating a new cultural program to address the mission of the Cultural Capital of Europe project.

Physical/Political Context – The Morphology of the EU

Moving every 6 months to a different member state, the location of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union is symbolic of the fact that Europe has no central capital. At the same time, it is also politically advantageous because it allows the host nation to set the agenda of the EU’s main law-making body according to national goals. In a similar way, the yearly designation of the European Capital of Culture is also financially important as a catalyst for the cultural development and transformation of the city.

As the EU/HQ’s host, Berlin will benefit from the opportunity to re-evaluate its particular cultural and political history. From fascism to communism, Berlin was the stage for many controversial political regimes in the 20th century, each of which left a distinct mark on the physical structure of the city. Often, however, the desire to move on has led to the systematic erasing of this history through new construction. Now, once again, the city must ask itself “which Berlin do we want to represent?”

Technological Context – Nano-robotics/Bio-technology

In addition to these cultural and political issues, the applicants are asked to address recent technological developments and their potential effects on the physical practice of architecture. In the past decade, the development of carbon-based nano-transistors has reached a consumer level, making the development of nano-robotics cost effective for small-scale architectural implementations. In addition, a new field of bacteria-based technology has uncovered a series of micro-organisms that can operate on the micro-level to affect structure.

This includes the Bacillus Pasteurii, which can solidify soil by turning sand into sandstone, and the Shewanella Bacteria, which naturally produces the carbon nano-tubes which have become the basis for all technology. When combined, these technologies have allowed the use of nano-robots to direct these natural bacterial processes to deploy not only material systems but also informational systems directly within the structure of the building. Working almost as a large-scale 3-d printer, this technology is able to build up and solidify both material and informational structure iteratively over time.

Programmatic Guidelines:

Office of the President of the Council of the European Union

  • general assembly space for the Council conference rooms

  • meeting rooms dedicated to education and training zone for identification processing

  • areas of restricted access for confidential materials

  • rooms with simultaneous interpretation and translation

  • events that would be extended to global audiences

Media Gallery

  • exhibition space to serve as an interface between the public and the Council

  • dedicated space for gatherings, film screenings, and public addresses

  • mediateque/digital library as an accessible cultural archive and research center

Competition Guidelines

Entries must address the following important issues of the project:

Institutional Identity – The reconciliation of the global identity of the cultural and executive functions of the EU/HQ with Berlin’s heritage.

Security/Public Space – The Offices of the President of the Council of Europe must adhere to certain security protocols to ensure the safety of the President and his staff. At the same time, the Media Gallery requires a level of publicness to ensure the usability of the cultural program.

Temporality of Program – The Office of the President will only be in Berlin for 6 months.The Media Gallery will remain on the site indefinitely, but must express the goals of the Cultural Capital of Europe project for the first year of its existence.

Physical Permanence – Submissions must design this technology with attention to the problem of monuments and permanence, or at the least landmark – an object that situates the city dwellers mind in space and time. With this type of technology which allows for organic and instantaneous reconstruction, this goes beyond the traditional architectural ambition of creating a “sense of place.”

Symbolic Site Condition – The former occupier of the site, the Palace of the Republic, was taken down in 2006. In its stead, a new symbol has emerged which projects the axis of scientific and intellectual exchange on the unsuspecting pattern of the city. Proposals must address this replacement of a regime of separation and control with an axis of cooperation and progress.

The designer’s protocols can take one of three forms:

Designer/Robot (Scripts/Software) – By handling the material and informational systems of building construction, new robot technology has become the new interface between the designer and the construction site. These robots follow specific behavior protocols that dictate how the robots process environmental inputs into material outputs. This class of protocol takes the form of scripts and software coding.

Person/Person (Codes/Legal Frameworks) – Once space is reprogrammable and computing is ubiquitous, who will be granted the agency to reprogram it? Will it be a purely democratic system following the loose crowdsourcing logic of something like the internet, or are there representatives who communicate with the built fabric? In this context, how shall authoritarian entities be prevented from gaining total control of the system? This class of protocol takes the form of legal codes and laws.

Public/Technology (Biological Traces/Digital Interfaces) – Nano-robotics, in combination with breakthroughs in micro-biology and bio-engineering, allows the physical environment to literally communicate with its inhabitants and the public at large. Should this occur through deliberate means like digital interfaces, or can buildings actually be programmed to understand humans through inherent biological signals?

Submissions must be single images, formatted in 8.5 inches by 11 inches (landscape), 300dpi tiffs. Submissions may (but are not required to) include up to 100 words of text. Applicants may submit more than one entry. All submissions are due by 11:59PM on 22 April 2010.


Physical/Political Context – Basic information about the history and structure of the European Union. – Article describing the demolition of the Palace of the Republic and the proposed construction of a replica of the old palace as a museum. – Critical reconstruction in Berlin

Technological Context

Nano-technology – Article on the use of carbon nano-tube technology to design the next generation of post-silicon nano-transistors.

Bacillus Pasteurii – Application of Bacillus Pasteurii to mitigate earthquake damage. – Architectural application of bacteria-based technology.

Shewanella Bacterium – Bacteria shown to naturally produce carbon nano-tubes.