EXTENSION OF A LISTED BUILDING IN THE HISTORICAL CITY CENTRE | DIRECT COMMISSION BY THE CLIENT
AWARDS Provincial architecture price 2008, Province Vlaams Brabant
At the historic center of the University of Louvain lays the medieval Linen hall and it’s 18th century addition the Rega wing. The structure houses the University’s main reception spaces, ceremonial assembly room and the Rector’s offices, located on the top floor. The University’s programmatic use of the building has increased over time. With this increase the lack of vertical circulation, storage space and emergency circulation became an issue that needed to be contended with. The main thrust behind the design was to manage and integrate the transformation of a monumental structure, composed of fragments and layers dating from the 13th till first half of 20th century, into a unified space while enlarging its programmatic capacities. The project started as a complex open heart surgery within the urban center of Louvain. The historic importance of the building as a landmark, along with additional urban complexities made the use of transparency and simple geometry the most relevant choices. The panoramic elevator integrated with the required fire stairs provided a strong urban solution, as well as making the building wheelchair accessible. The design uses spatiality, monumental scale and the historic ornament of the existing building to complement the functionality of the new built space. The new space includes a large vestibule with a ‘promenade architecturale’ along the former outside walls of the historic linen hall. The location and height of the new vertical circulation culminates in a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.