LOOK A LITTLE BIT CLOSER: Social Housing Projects in Leuven

It was a rather cold day of October 2014. Han Verschure took us to have an alternative walk in Leuven on the third wednesday of the month. To me, it was a fantastic day – I know Leuven since 2007, but had never given a special attention to these places I would like to talk about.

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I think the walk was also important for having reminded us about the importance of housing projects in urban development. Governments keep putting high investments on bridges, roads, parks, but at the end of the day, people need proper housing to build home, better social relations, and community engagement.

The walk started from The Grand Béguinage of Leuven, or in Dutch, Groot Begijnhof van Leuven. Han reminded us that before the complex was given to KU Leuven by the city (symbolically sold to KU Leuven for 1 belgian franc), in the 50s it was allocated as housing for poor people. In the 70s the condition was dilapidated, but the state had no fund to renovate. It was given to the university with a condition that the institution improve the neighbourhood. A serious research and implementation works on conservation and preservation were done under the lead of Raymond Lemaire. Today, the complex is housing many staff, researchers, professors, and students of KU Leuven.

There are some totally new buildings in the complex, built on sites used to be occupied with ruined houses. These new structures are with modern-architecture-as-we-know, as well as ‘the old but new’ and the hybrid. Some examples are in below pictures.

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Now let us move into the area around Brusselsstraat. There are some social housing projects in the area. Two of them were developed by making use of the old factory and the old school. Below are pictures of the re-developed school, the school no. 4, with very beautiful cast iron.

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And some pictures from around the old factory site.

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Below are some social housing buildings around Brusselssestraat.

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Han also explained how Leuven, the city, is now working hard to opening the segments of the rivers that have been made underground.

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In sum, bringing back the rivers to the city and bringing back homes to the poor can be two strategic urban development programs.

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