VUB inaugurates largest ever campus expansion

Summary

A new €61 million development at the Brussels university includes Pilar, a new arts centre to replace KultuurKaffee

VUB XL

A complex of new buildings was inaugurated this week at the main campus of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), marking the largest expansion in the university’s history. The teaching, research and student facilities they provide will underpin VUB’s continued growth, and fill the gap left by the closure four years ago of the university’s KultuurKaffee arts centre.

The buildings – imaginatively named I, X and Y – are on VUB’s humanities, sciences and engineering campus in Etterbeek. They stand along a new avenue connecting the heart of the campus with Triomflaan, creating a new link between the university and its surroundings.

“A closer relationship between academia and society, between VUB and Brussels, is one of our biggest priorities,” explained Caroline Pauwels, the university’s rector. “The avenue offers, firstly, a view of our campus from the outside and, secondly, makes it easier for the people of Brussels to enter the campus. For our students, the path leads straight to the city.”

The project cost €61 million, financed through the issue of bonds, and was designed by the Brussels architectural firm CONIX RDBM Architects.

Pilar talk

The I building has 14 classrooms and lecture halls, equipped with the latest teaching technologies. The X building comprises 650 student rooms and student services such as housing, financing and employment.

The Y building will be the home of Pilar, an arts centre with exhibition spaces, a bar and a concert hall. This replaces KultuurKaffee, the campus arts venue that closed in 2015.

Ambitions for the arts centre are high. “Pilar will be an open, artistic laboratory in Brussels,” said its co-ordinator, Lieselotte Vaneeckhaute. “A place created for and by young people. A centre that provides space for the cross-fertilisation of art and science as well as cultural entrepreneurship.”

Its first event is a month-long multidisciplinary festival called Pilar ASAP, which will explore philosophy and the meaning of life in contemporary society through a wide range of events and performances.

Photo: ©Franky Verdickt/VUB