Aires Mateus : Faculté de Tournai

In Tournai (Belgium), in the heart of an island composed of old industrial and hospital buildings of the XVIIIe century, there is an intriguing sculptural volume all dressed in white. A minimalist achievement signed by the Portuguese agency Aires Mateus housing the new Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning of the Catholic University of Louvain, formerly located on the campus of the Institution Saint-Luc.

Wishing to improve its visibility and offer its 600 architecture students larger workspaces, the Catholic University of Louvain launched in 2014 a tender for the rehabilitation of its second campus, located in the hyper-center of Tournais. The block, formerly occupied by banking companies, is made up of several buildings dating from different times, separated by a vast courtyard including country houses to the north, former industrial premises of the XIXe century to the east and an old hospital of the XVIIIe century to the west.


Faced with agencies such as Lacaton & Vassal, Robbrecht & Daem, V + and AAVO, the Portuguese Aires Mateus project was selected thanks to an astonishing concrete monolith inserted between the existing constructions, in an L-shaped plan crossing the plot from side to side.

The building housing a lobby in its longest wing and an auditorium 300 placed in the other, allows on the one hand to redefine the boundaries of the courtyard and on the other hand to bring to the Faculty , an iconic entrance facade, positioned between two tertiary buildings in red brick and materialized by a triangular geometric hollow, acting as a protective preface. The imposing volume slightly down the street, punctuated by an interlacing of stairs leading to the floor where students' studios are located, thus constitutes a sculptural object, independent of its context and its buildings - almost - terraced.

A surprising proposal bringing a breath of fresh air to this group of old buildings.

To learn more, visit the Aires Mateus site

Photographs: Tim Van de Velde

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