The new Cera building positions itself carefully within the medieval core of Leuven, opposite the side entrance of the historic town hall and close to the Grote Markt. It constitutes the true ‘heart of the city’. Originally the site consisted of a complex conglomerate of buildings with the Hôtel d'Eynatten from 1760, a neo-Gothic wing from 1917 and a corner building in sober reconstruction architecture from 1948. In order to free up space in the existing dense fabric, this corner building and a few less valuable building components were demolished in favour of a new building. The newly constructed section reinforces the historical tripartite character of the project and allows the two older buildings, each with their own specific character and atmosphere, to be even more clearly distinguished from one another. Thanks to a well-considered restoration, these two buildings were given a fully-fledged new purpose, while the new part of the building expressly shows its contemporary identity without confronting its historic neighbours. The entire project found its basis in the colours, refinement and subtlety of the surrounding historical elements and has translated them in a contemporary way.
The dense inner-city context where the project is situated requires a very deliberate integration. Few contemporary buildings of this volume position themselves so peacefully within the old town, weaving amongst, and entering into a dialogue with, the medieval street fabric. The complex is not only located in Leuven's inner city, but also on a site that was completely built up. Additional space was made by inserting three courtyards. The project culminates with an enclosed garden at the centre of the building complex, on the site of the former ticket office. The new facade, like a thin sheet of paper with rhythmical openings, relates to the surrounding buildings through its rectangular cuts. Perforated brick screen elements produce a rich, dappled quality of light. On the ground floor, where the public and private meet, the brick facade disappears with a delicate finish, like a hem of lace.
Robbrecht en Daem architecten
offices for the headquarter
Paul Robbrecht, Hilde Daem, Johannes Robbrecht, Veronique Clarebout, Florence Daem, Sofie Deboutte, Arne Deruyter, Valerie De Ketelaere, Kobe Van Praet
Stabo, BAS (Dirk Jaspaert)