Silos and Van Orshoven mills Leuven
Circular reconversion of historic heritage into makerspace.
The Vaartkom district welcomes another pilot project: the famous Silos and the adjacent Van Orshoven Mills have been reconverted into a temporary makerspace. The experimental urban project focuses on creativity, innovation and collaboration across various industries. POLO's circular approach to the reconversion project won the design competition.
Leuven's Vaartkom district, a former industrial area by the canal, is transforming into a stylish, vibrant and green urban district bursting with creativity and social interaction. The high-quality blend of residential, business and leisure development on the waterfront generates a new dynamic within the city centre. Residential and commercial projects are gradually taking shape. Last yeart, the City of Leuven and urban development firm Ertzberg concluded a cooperation agreement to give the ground floor of the striking silos located in the Vaartkom area a temporary function until the end of 2022. Along with a section of the adjoining Van Orshoven mills, they are temporarily reconverted into a makerspace.
maakleerplek is initially conceived as an experiment. During this temporary period, the city, the neighbourhood and the various educational, cultural and economic partners will discover how surprising collaborations and projects can originate from this impressive location. It is an open workspace where schools, businesses, (creative) organisations and citizens of Leuven can come together, share spaces and material, create things and learn from each other.
With this development, the new urban district now accommodates its first socio-cultural hub. POLO Architects' construction team, contractor Vanhout.pro of the Van Roey group and technical expert Groep Infrabo are currently working on the temporary, circular reconversion. Sureal, sustainability & circularity expert, advised the team during the competition.
Due to the current Covid measures, the site is not yet open to the public. The grand opening ceremony is scheduled for the autumn of 2021.
In the meantime, you can check out maakleerplek's website: www.maakleerplekleuven.be
The buildings' temporary residential function is realised in a circular and participative manner. The transformation's costs and environmental impact are kept as low as possible. Bearing in mind logical phasing, circular construction methods, budget constraints and restrictions as to the adaptation of existing heritage buildings, the design team suggested modifications that enhance the project's external and internal readability. A circular facade that can be transformed into a greenhouse, acclimatised containers in the silos, and a modular scaffolding marking the entrance are just a few examples of sustainable interventions that allow different groups of end users to give the space a concrete interpretation. These modifications turn the silos and mills into an easily accessible public space where anyone can feel at home.
The design is built up around flexible spaces. The project can accommodate break-outs, lessons, studios, workshops, meetings, co-working spaces,... These functions can change depending on the needs of the moment. Future-oriented, transformable and therefore circular buildings are becoming the norm. POLO Architects' design not only provides an answer to the short-term requirements, but also reflects on adaptability in terms of future use. When the space under the silos is no longer available, the mills have to be easily adaptable to a brand new function.
The temporary reconversion of the Silos and the Van Orshoven Mills is a social and spatial experiment. The project, based on a sustainable and cyclical model, is a transition towards a permanent repurposing of valuable heritage.
Stapelhuisstraat, 3000 Leuven
City of Leuven
winning competition design