World

NATO inaugurates sprawling, expensive new Brussels HQ

President Donald Trump and his NATO counterparts on Thursday inaugurated the alliance's new headquarters in Belgium, a sprawling 1.1-billion-euro ($1.2-billion) complex expected to be fully up and running early next year.

IMPOSING AND IMPORTANT

The low-slung, gray glass and steel behemoth near the Brussels airport will be the base for some 4,500 people, although none will live there. It's an edifice with few frills, but can resist bomb or cyber-attacks, withstand power outages and even recycle rainwater.

Standing seven stories high, and with one level underground, the building is covered with 10 soccer fields' worth of glass. A stroll across the 41-hectare (101-acre) campus should take about 20 minutes.

The eight wings that jut out from the main spine of the building to house the offices of the 28 member nations and 19 partner countries are each 188 meters (617 feet) long and symbolically form interlaced fingers when seen from the air.

SHARING THE SPACE, AND STAYING FIT

The United States, Britain, France and Canada are fitting out their own areas, with Washington bringing in U.S. designers, firms and materials for the job.

Thursday's leaders' dinner is being held in conference room 14, one of 36 such venues spread across the lower two floors of one wing, and fitted with large screens and smart cameras that can detect who's speaking.

Despite the new tech and location, the conference room looks very similar to the rather charmless one used by the so-called North Atlantic Council in the old building, erected as a temporary HQ 50 years ago.

The building's wings join at the cavernous Agora common area. To one side, media facilities and a small shopping complex, with grocery store, news agent, laundry, hair salon and gift shop to keep staff in shape. Tennis courts, a swimming pool, gym and running track have been installed — part of the NATO job requirement. Officials were quick to quash rumors that the place has a bowling alley.

STAYING SECURE

Around 1,000 security cameras will watch the national delegates, military staff and agency employees at work or play.

Given its proximity to the airport, the building has been kept at a low 34 meters (111 feet), but flight simulations show that the chances of a plane crash in the area are extremely low.

Some 300 people are already working there, but the full move — expected to take 12 weeks and involve the transport of some 42 kilometers (23 miles) of document archives — is likely to start in December. That's unless there are more delays, some of them due to the four unexploded World War II bombs found on the building site.

NATO's military HQ in the city of Mons, Belgium will remain.