Projects

Rectory Building VUB

©Helen Hermans

Building/site

Type

Public building

Location

Pleinlaan 2 1050 Elsene

Style

Modernism

Year of construction

1971-1978

Original design

Renaat Braem

Mission

Client

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Project team

Origin (architecture & stability) Sweco (special techniques) Venac (acoustics) Real Visuals (visualisation) L’autre Lumière (lighting) Jan Minne (garden architecture) Kasken (signalisation)

Contractor

Restoration concrete canopy: Renotec Vernieuwen ; Doors & window: Wycor ; Restoration fase 01: Wycor

In 1971, architect Renaat Braem was asked to design an administrative and rectorate building for the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Its location on the campus was determined by the master plan of architect-coordinator Le Maresquier. The initial program was more ambitious and, in addition to the administration and rectorate, included an auditorium and student facilities. It was intended to be a central meeting place on the campus. Braem was asked to design a prestige project with a grand allure.

©Helen Hermans

The completion of the building was initially planned for 1972. In the end, it would take until 1978 before the building was taken into use. The development of the design and the construction is characterised by endless rounds of savings, whereby initially exuberant sculptural designs evolved into a sober ellipse. For Braem, the ellipse was the most primary form in nature and thus in science. The ellipse contains more dynamics than the circle because it has two focal points; it symbolises the course of the atoms around the nucleus, the earth around the sun or even the Milky Way. The elliptical floor plan, 76 metres long and 16 metres wide, was, according to Braem, a fitting symbol for the university, as a place where one seeks 'the ultimate truth'.

©Helen Hermans
©Jean Cosyn
©Helen Hermans

A sculptural concrete canopy marks the entrance. The building consists of five open levels above a car park, supported by two elongated, curved concrete cores. On these cores, Braem painted murals representing the evolution of mankind on earth. 

The starting point of the restoration philosophy is the desire to preserve the building as a global concept, which means that the readability of the symbolism present in the building must be restored and reinforced. The most important intervention concerns the conversion of individual rooms into landscape offices, which makes the elliptical shape tangible in the interior and enhances the experience of the murals within the building.

©Helen Hermans

The entrance hall and the meeting room on the first floor will be restored to their original state, removing recent disruptive additions in order to rediscover the original atmosphere of these special public spaces.

The intention for the furnishing of the new landscape offices is to give all new contemporary interventions (meeting rooms, lighting, acoustics, integration of the ventilation system, automated sun blinds, etc.) as much serenity as possible in order to do justice to the qualities of the original architecture.

©Helen Hermans

Different techniques of concrete restoration are used: traditional concrete repair and repair by means of cathodic protection. The historical deflection in the floor slabs is tackled by removing the screed, thus answering both the stability issue (deflection of the floors) as creating an increased flexibility and improved acoustics due to the placement of a raised floor.

The work entails a total restoration that will be carried out in phases, whereby the users will remain in the building during the operation. The interiors will be completely revised together with the renewal and extension of the elevators. The public staircases will be upgraded, with adaptations being made to the handrail considering the fall protection. In addition to the interiors, the facades and roofs will be restored. The new roof access provides the visitor with a panoramic view of the campus.  In this process, the monumental staircase hall will be extended and a new roof volume added. A terrace will be built between the various upper-roof volumes, surrounded by a contemporary roof garden.

©Helen Hermans
©Helen Hermans

Team members

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Charlotte Nys

Director Administrator

Education
Architectural Engineer

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Aurélie Vermijlen

Collaborator

Education
Civil Engineer in Construction and Master "Conservation" (Centre Raymond Lemaire, Leuven)

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Erik Hendrickx

Collaborator

Education
Architect and Master “Monumenten- en Landschapszorg” (Artesis Hogeschool Antwerpen)

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Barbara Pecheur

Administrator

Education
Architect and Master "Monumenten- en Landschapszorg" (Artesis Hogeschool Antwerpen)

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Marc Wertz

Collaborator

Education
Industrial Engineer

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Egeleen Romaen

Collaborator

Education
Architectural Engineer

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Please do not hesitate to contact us. Someone from the Origin team will be happy to answer your questions.

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