The project joins two art schools – the academy of fine arts and the academy of music, drama and dance – on one location. An impressive concrete building of the former printing company Brepols is renovated as new workshop building for fine arts. An adjacent new building provides music classes, auditoria and dance rooms. A classified modernist office building serves as collective building housing a generous art hall with café and offices for the schools.
Circulation as project
The project fits in the larger masterplan ‘Turnova’ which regenerates the large terrains of the printing company Brepols into a mixed urban quarter, just next to the central town square of Turnhout. Turnova provides about 40 shops, 170 new apartments and a hotel. In the middle of this development, the public functions of the art academy enrich the urban mix of functions and activate the neighbourhood in weekends and after-work hours.
To ensure this role as urban activator, the art school has a layout with a good permeability on ground floor level: a public passage pierces through the Academy as a new public connection in the urban network of Turnhout. Along this passage large windows offer views on the activity inside the Art school.
On the first floor, a very different floor plan links the different zones of the art academy: as a ‘modern cloister’ a walkway joins the 3 buildings of the Academy and offers views and accesses to the most important grand rooms of the school. The elevated walkabout acts as an internal agora where the different arts and users meet each other.
Choreography of shared uses
The art education is mainly organised on after-school hours. In order to be able to activate the building on other moments, the layout of the plan is conceived to let the client open up the building partially to different end users. With the first floor as most public floor, the rooms on this floor are useable by different organisations. The art hall in the classified modernist office building is accessible without interfering with the rest of the academy and can thus be used for independent users.
The large open hall of the former printing workshop on the first floor is divided into a set of different smaller drawing and painting classes by using movable cupboards. In this way the hall still works as a very flexible floor, ready to be adjusted depending on the future needs of the art academy.
Reconversion of modernist patrimony
The main sustainable merit of the project is the re-use of the buildings of the former printing company as welcome complementary structures in the middle of a newly developed urban neighbourhood. Almost 100 years after their construction, and almost 40 years after being abandoned, the two most elegant buildings of Brepols got to play a new role in the public life of Turnhout.
The renovation of the workshop building provides a complete new skin at the outside, making it possible to match contemporary energy- efficiency without losing the ambiance of the old concrete hall at the inside.
The new academy on one of the most central locations of the city - with large and safe indoor bike park facilities - encourages teachers and students to use bike and public transport.
A new chapter for Turnhout
The new academy of Turnhout is the key public project within the challenging public-private development Turnova. For the small city of Turnhout this project is clearly the most important step in the regeneration of the city centre.
The project combines the renovation and restoration of ambitious early modernist industrial buildings with a generous new construction into one coherent architecture. This new ‘creative factory’ is thus not only exemplary as 21st century re- use of 20th century heritage, but also marks the strong believe in the continuous power of mixed urban centres.