Xaveer de Geyter wins competition for European Patent Office

MVRDV ended up second, Ton Venhoeven (with Itten + Brechbühl) fifth, while the third Dutch contestant, Micha de Haas just missed the final five.

The Hague/Munich, 20 December 2004 – At the end of November, the European Patent Office (EPO) concluded an international architects' competition to replace an 85-metre tower holding 1 100 offices at its branch in The Hague. The five winning entries were:

1st prize: Xaveer de Geyter Architecten B.V.B.A., Brussels

2nd prize: MVRDV, Rotterdam

3rd prize: Henning Larsens Tegnestue A/S, Copenhagen

4th prize: Hascher Jehle Architektur, Berlin

5th prize: Itten + Brechbühl AG, Berne, and Venhoeven CS, Amsterdam

Detailed studies by in-house and outside experts had shown that the existing building was no longer suitable. Nor was complete renovation an option, for both financial and organisational. The EPO currently employs over 2 700 staff in The Hague, in a complex which also houses the Netherlands Patent Office. Just two years ago, it built the 'Hinge', linking up two previously separate office buildings. This 120m-guilder project includes a conference centre, and a large roof garden which also provides cover for 1 200 parking spaces.

When the EPO announced its international competition earlier this year, almost 1 000 architectural firms expressed interest, and 391 actually entered. These were whittled down to 52, of which 46 ultimately put forward proposals. An international jury then chose the best ten entries to proceed to the competition's second – open and co-operative – phase. The five prize-winners are the pick of those ten.

The new building must offer 1 600 offices, together with infrastructure such as a canteen, meeting rooms and around 1 000 parking spaces. Its gross floor area will be more than 72 000 m2.

The award-winning entries offered very different visions for the large Patentlaan site in Rijswijk, a suburb of The Hague, and for linking up the existing buildings to the new complex.  At its meeting next June, the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation will be asked to give the final go-ahead to this 280m-euro project. If it does so, the detailed planning and approval phase could start in summer 2005, and construction in early 2007. The EPO should then be able to move in by 2009.