The city of Strasbourg (France) is the official seat of the European Parliament. The institution is legally bound to meet there twelve sessions a year lasting about four days each.
Other work takes place in Brussels and Luxembourg City. Also all votes of the European Parliament must take place in Strasbourg. "Additional" sessions and committees take place in Brussels. Although de facto a majority of the Parliament's work is now geared to its Brussels site, it is legally bound to keep Strasbourg as its official home.
The Parliament's buildings are located in the Quartier Européen (European Quarter) of the city, which it shares with other European organisations which are separate from the European Union's. Previously the Parliament used to share the same assembly room as the Council of Europe. Today, the principal building is the Louise Weiss building, inaugurated in 1999.
The principal building, the Louise Weiss building (IPE 4), is located in the Wacken district of Strasbourg.
With its surface of 220,000m² and its distinctive 60m tower it is one of the biggest and most visible buildings of Strasbourg. The Louise Weiss was designed by the Paris-based team of architects Architecture-Studio. The architects were inspired by Roman amphitheaters. After the project was approved at an international contest in 1991, work, commissioned by the Société d'Aménagement et d'Équipement de la Région de Strasbourg on behalf of the Urban Community of Strasbourg, started in May 1995, with up to twelve tower cranes at the time on what was one of the biggest building sites of the decade in Europe.
The voluntarily unfinished aspect of the 60m high tower carries heavy symbolism, as it is alleged to have been oriented eastwards, i.e. towards eastern Europe, of which by the time of the completion of the building no country had yet joined the EU. However, the open side of the tower actually faces west.
Members sit in a hemicycle according to their political groups arranged mainly from left to right, although with the non-attached members towards the back and right of the chamber. All desks are equipped with microphones, headphones for interpretation and electronic voting equipment. The leaders of the groups sit on the front benches at the centre, and in the very centre is a podium for guest speakers. The remaining segment of the circular chamber is primarily composed of the raised area where the President and staff sit. Behind them there is an EU flag attached to the wall with national flags in rows each side of it.
Interpretation booths are located behind them and along the sides of the chamber, while public galleries are located above the chamber around the entire perimeter. Further benches are provided between the sides of the raised area and the MEPs; these are taken up by the Council on the far left and the Commission on the far right. The chamber as a whole is of a modern design, with the walls entirely composed of lights with large blue chairs for MEPs.