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Mariahof leuven

Connecting convent buildings to a health site

Leuven, Belgium
2016-2018, Competition
Mariahof Leuven vzw
a2o-architecten & OSK-AR
5.700 m2

For centuries, Holy Mary's Sisters have taken care of the relief and education of Louvain's needy. With the redevelopment of their convent site as an accessible and affordable health care site, the diminishing convent order wants to ensure that this social role continues into the future.

 The central site on the Charles Deberiotstraat consists of historic residences, the 19th-century convent and the 20th-century extensions, which have amalgamated over the years. This architectural complex constitutes a strong presence in the bend of the narrow, steep Deberiotstraat and leaves a generous absence, the enclosed garden, to the university colleges located behind it.

 The redevelopment embeds this spatial context by keeping the enclosed garden open and fitting in an additional project on the street side. Along the garden, the Viculus Caer - the shortcut between the Deberiotstraat and the college buildings - will be restored. Selective demolition of annexes as well as an extension from the 1970s makes the historic complex transparent and allows three connecting interventions. The translucent, high framed windows turn the interventions into a clear and coherent unit.

The garden walls along the street will be removed, allowing the opened-up forecourt to become a meeting place, literally giving the street breathing space. In the angle of the early-20th-century corner building, a sunroom will be added, as an extension of the ground floor, to become the social heart of the site. This communal room constitutes the connection between the street and the enclosed garden and provides an open-end solution for future health care developments in the adjacent building.

 The 1970s building that will be demolished, will be replaced by a brick volume whose dimensions reflect those of the old convent. The volume added is connected to the corner building by a transparent section that overlooks the social heart.

 Between the convent and the residences, a central stairway will be added behind an extended rear façade.

 With its varied sequence of building sections and the different atmospheres of the individual areas, Mariahof transcends the traditional health care site characterised by rooms alongside a corridor. 

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