German manufacturer GKD is the leading global supplier of architectural woven metal mesh
When the 1992 EU Summit decided that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should remain permanently in Luxembourg, this gifted the country a building boom. A new architectural concept was required for the ECJ’s home, the Palais de Justice, to accommodate its staff of around 2,000 people.
The accession of further member states was also considered, but any expansion could not precipitate extensive changes to the existing architecture. Following the decision in 2002 on a fourth major expansion of the ECJ, French architect Dominique Perrault devised a visionary concept that harmoniously integrated the old building and extended it with two towers. And so the Kirchberg plateau to the north-east of the city became home to the country’s biggest and, at 350 million euros, most expensive building project.
Once the 25,000m² Palais de Justice had been cleared of asbestos, the fourth building extension was carried out in two phases: the expansion of the original structure and the erection of two golden towers. The first phase saw the old Palais encircled by a two-storey gallery of offices. Both storeys of this anneau (or ring) are clad with a facade of golden glass panes of varying widths. Perrault decided that the architectural heart of the ECJ would be the main courtroom, which seats 40 judges and 280 members of the public. The eye is irresistibly drawn to the tent-like hanging ceiling made of golden anodized metal mesh known as Escale and produced by GKD-Gebr Kufferath AG (GKD).
Like a shimmering canopy it reflects the ambivalence of this venerable place, offering both transparency and seclusion at the same time. As no available material could realize the canopy’s complex geometry, GKD specially developed a spiral mesh in defined golden tones to create the veil that floats above the space. In addition to its particular aesthetic qualities, the Escale mesh proved irresistible because theoretically its spirals can be interwoven endlessly and can thereby incorporate round forms. The circular three-dimensional construction is made of 40 trapeziform elements of varying sizes that meet centrally in a chalice shape. The ring-like walkway that runs around the courtroom looks down onto the proceedings below, but the canopy prevents a clear view.
Perrault has created a new landmark. Connected to the old Palais by an underground walkway, the two golden towers - 100 metres high and just 14 metres wide - contain 24 floors of high-spec office accommodation for translators and lawyer-linguists. The towers’ exteriors are made of 20,000m² of golden anodized aluminium mesh, specially developed by GKD, which acts as a sunshade.
Over 7,000 panels set in golden frames, each with meticulously crisp zig-zag edging, were mounted between the window panes. They lend the slim towers an optical depth and create spectacular light effects. Through their minimalist yet imposing form, the towers emphasise the EU’s multilingualism. Should the number of member states rise beyond 27, a third tower can easily be added.
GKD - Gebr Kufferath AG, an owner-operated technical weaving mill, is the global leader in woven metal mesh systems for architectural and design projects. With six production facilities, including its headquarters in Germany and others in the USA, the United Kingdom, Spain, South Africa and China, as well as branches in Dubai and Qatar and agents around the world, GKD is always close to the market and its customers.