KU Leuven will develop a new location in Brussels in the Pacheco building of Belfius Insurance. This will also lead to the preservation of the Meyboom building in Rue des Sables. KU Leuven acquired the Meyboom building in 2012 to build a new campus but the planned project raised concerns, mostly regarding the heritage value of the building.
State Secretary for Urbanism Pascal Smet, KU Leuven and Belfius Insurance have found a solution together to preserve the stately Meyboom building on the corner of Rue des Sables and Rue du Marais. For its part, KU Leuven will develop a future-oriented research and education site in the base of the Pacheco building, which is owned by Belfius Insurance.
Brussels State Secretary for Urbanism and Heritage Pascal Smet was very positive about the solution – “Respect the past, create the future. That was my starting point when I started the talks with KU Leuven and Belfius Insurance. I would like to expressly thank the involved sides for their open and constructive attitude. This attitude has allowed us to abandon the original, already licensed project and to achieve a result that is much better for our city and its inhabitants and students.” The solution makes it possible to preserve the beautiful building in Rue des Sables while at the same time enabling the creation of a new student hub at a strategic location.
“By joining forces with KU Leuven to house faculties in the Pacheco building base, Belfius is once again emphasising its social role. Because investing in young people is investing in tomorrow’s society. Furthermore, Belfius Insurance will ensure that the Meyboom building preserves its heritage value and is providing sustainable developments for both buildings”.Dirk Vanderschrick, CEO of Belfius Insurance
“We too are very pleased with this outcome,” says KU Leuven rector Luc Sels. The Pacheco site is full of possibilities and thus meets the needs for additional teaching and research space. The Sint-Lucas Brussels campus is doing extremely well, but that also means that KU Leuven current buildings are lacking space for the almost 4000 students and the increasing number of researchers.
Alderwoman for Urbanism and Public Space Ans Persoons says that the City of Brussels is extremely pleased that the building in Rue du Meiboom will not be demolished. “Not only will the building in Rue du Meiboom be renovated and given a new purpose, but a lively atmosphere will also be created by developing the student campus on Boulevard Pacheco. This is perfectly in line with the Master Plan that the city is currently elaborating in order to improve the public space at the north-south connection.” – added alderwoman Persoons.
Solution for the Meyboom building
The stately 19th-century building was developed by architect Paul Saintenoy, who also designed the Old England department store on Mont des Arts, now home to the Musical Instruments Museum.
KU Leuven acquired the building in 2012 to build a new campus near the existing site on Rue d’Assaut, shared with the Odisee university.
The planned project raised concerns, about the heritage value of the building among other things. This concern was shared by State Secretary for Urbanism and Heritage Pascal Smet and the university has always understood this point of view.
Together, they have been searching alternatives for some time and found a sustainable solution with Belfius Insurance, respecting the historical value of the Meyboom building.
Belfius Insurance will acquire the KU Leuven building and ensure that the architectural and heritage value is respected. Student accommodation, offices and residential units will be combined.
New life in the Pacheco building
More and more Brussels, Flemish and international students are finding their way to KU Leuven in Brussels, which means the university needs extra teaching and office space.
KU Leuven and Belfius will develop a new site in the Pacheco building, owned by Belfius Insurance, by renovating and extending the base, the blocks to the left and right of the building, and the underground “Passage 44” that connects both blocks. To achieve this, Belfius Insurance has commissioned the Belgian architect team a2o-WIT, the winner of a public architecture competition organised by the Brussels Bouwmeester/Maître Architecte.
The current building will be preserved and will be even better appreciated and integrated into the public space.
In addition to auditoria, the new building will also host other functions that students can use. The “living campus” design will also consider the building’s integration into its surroundings. Students, faculty and staff will thus truly become part of the city and their presence will also positively impact the neighbourhood, which is in full transition. Interaction with the metropolis is an important asset for KU Leuven.
Thanks to its excellent location on the edge of the Brussels pentagon, the students enjoy great accommodation and recreation opportunities. With the vibrant city centre at walking distance, they can easily reach the inner city.
The iconic Pacheco building, on the corner of Boulevard Pacheco and the small ring, is centrally located and easily accessible by public transport. The Brussels-Central and Brussels-North stations are within walking distance, while Brussels-Congress railway station is located right next to the campus. Currently, this station is mainly being used by commuters working in the area. There is also a public car park under the Pacheco building. Moreover, new cycle paths are currently being constructed along the entire inner ring road.
The immediate surroundings of the new university site will also undergo a metamorphosis in the coming years. Today, Boulevard Pacheco must deal with the choices of the past, such as a railway connection that cuts the centre in two and large, monofunctional buildings. Thanks to the master plan “Pentagon slopes”, the City of Brussels will focus on softening and greening, which will release the neighbourhood of its mineral character. These interventions will create a connection to the surrounding neighbourhoods, Carrefour de l’Europe and the Botanical Garden.
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