Book Tower, Ghent 



Henry Van de Velde’s masterpiece is restored and modernised.


Following a consultation of the Flemish Master Builder (Vlaamse Bouwmeester), the mission to restore the University of Ghent's "Boekentoren", a masterpiece by architect Henry Van de Velde (1863-1957), has been awarded to the "Boekentoren design team", which comprises the following partners:

- Robbrecht and Daem architects, responsible for the general concept and the follow-up of the design.
- B. Van der Wee Architects, responsible for the historical analysis and the restoration concept.
- Daidalos Peutz building physics engineering office, responsible for the research regarding building physics and sustainability.
- SumProject and Architectenbureau Baro Consulting, responsible for the execution dossier and the execution.
- Bureau d'études Greisch, responsible for the research into specific techniques to restore the concrete.
- VK Engineering, responsible for the HVAC.


The "Boekentoren design team" drew up a master plan that was approved on 11 June 2009 by the university board. The final master plan provides for a project that is split into three execution phases spread out over five years. The first phase includes a new underground storage facility, the shell and the infrastructure of the PC centre. In a second phase the façade will be restored along with the inside of the PC centre. In the third and final phase, the interiors of the reading room and the tower will be restored. The completion of the works is planned for 2016.


With regard to this building, a number of very specific restoration issues was researched. In this way, the causes of damage to the concrete and the metal joinery and various possible restoration strategies were thoroughly analysed.


When he was awarded the contract in 1933, Van de Velde immediately thought of a tower as a storeroom for books. The location at the highest point of the city had him dreaming of a beacon, a sign of the university, a symbol of science, wisdom and knowledge: his "Boekentoren" would be the fourth tower in Ghent. The final design of the "Boekentoren" dates from 1935. Van de Velde could use the know-how of his colleagues, Gustave Magnel, specialist in reinforced concrete, and Jean-Norbert Cloquet, to build a construction 64 meters ihigh with four underground levels, twenty levels above ground and an impressive belvedere. The choice of concrete was an expression of modernity that was accentuated by the use of the innovative technique of slip forming.


The building, with a total surface area of about 20,000 m2, was completely finished in 1947. The "Boekentoren" was listed as a monument on

1 July 1992. Today, it serves as the central library for Ghent university and houses 48 km of book and newspaper shelves, reading and archive rooms and offices.


Client: Universiteit Gent, Directie Gebouwen en Facilitair Beheer

In collaboration with: Robbrecht en Daem architecten, B. Van der Wee Architects, Architectenbureau Baro Consulting bvba, Bureau d'Etudes Greisch sa, VK Engineering nv, Daidalos Peutz bouwfysisch ingenieursbureau bvba



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