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Restoration of the 'Tower of Books', Ghent 

 

Renovation of the Library of the University of Ghent

 

The contract for the restoration of the 'Book Tower' of the University of Ghent and of the former Higher Institute of Art History and Archeology (HIKO), a masterpiece by architect Henri Van de Velde (1863-1967), was won by the design team 'Ontwerpteam Boekentoren' following an international competition launched by the 'Vlaams Bouwmeester'.

 

From the start of his mission for the library in 1933, Van de Velde immediately thought of a tower to store the books. For the final version of his concrete 'Tower of Books', a 64-meter-high construction with four basements, twenty floors and an impressive belvedere, Van de Velde was able to count on the know-how of his colleagues Gustave Magnel , specialist in reinforced concrete, and Jean-Norbert Cloquet. At the time, the choice of concrete was an expression of modernity, accentuated by a sliding formwork technique, which was innovative for our country. The building, with a total area of ​​approximately 20,000 m², was fully completed in 1947. It contains 48 km of shelves for books and magazines as well as numerous rooms and offices for reading and archives. It thus constitutes the central library of the University, listed as a monument since July 1, 1992.

 

The restoration project foresees an implementation in 5 phases. Work began in 2011. The first phase consisted of the construction of an underground repository for the storage of the collection under ideal conditions. This phase paved the way for the following phases. For the restoration of the concrete walls various domestic and foreign experts were consulted. An in-depth analysis was then carried out on the origin of the damage, on various repair strategies and on test set-ups for the removal of concrete at the surface and for a new impact against the facade surface has been developed. Extensive research has also been carried out for the renovation of exterior joinery in order to develop high quality double glazed windows corresponding to the original profile.

 

Within the project team ‘Ontwerpteam Boekentoren’, SumProject is responsible for the phase of the planning permission application and for the execution study for the for the works.

 

Client: Universiteit Gent, Directie Gebouwen en Facilitair Beheer

Project team: ‘Ontwerpteam Boekentoren’ formed by Robbrecht en Daem architecten, SumProject architecture & engineering, B. Van der Wee Architects, Architectenbureau Baro, Greisch engineering, VK Engineering, Daidalos Peutz bouwfysisch ingenieursbureau

 

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