Law in concrete: Institutional architecture in Brussels and The Hague

Renske Vos, Sofia Stolk

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


One of the most iconic and concrete encounters one can have with international law is to visit its institutional buildings. This article aims to shed light on the ambivalent aspirations reflected by the architectural design of the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the European Union buildings in Brussels. It provides a sightseeing tour through the architectural landscape of these two ‘legal capitals’ and explores the architectural embodiment of international law’s imaginaries through discussing three main issues: (1) the representation of values and needs; (2) embeddedness within the city; (3) audience expectations. It argues that the physical sites of institutional buildings and the public events that take place at these sites are not trivial to the practice of international law. These sites and the activities and interactions on their grounds (re)produce stories that affect our understanding of what international institutions are and what they mean to us. In particular in the international setting, where institutional legitimacy is not a given, the building’s architecture is an important means of communication. This article explores how the architectural design invites or discourages engagement and how it facilitates an encounter between the institutions and their multiple audiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-82
Number of pages26
JournalLaw and Humanities
Issue number1
Early online date17 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • International law
  • Architecture
  • European Union
  • International Criminal Court
  • Legal Sightseeing
  • legal sightseeing
  • architecture


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