Since January 2002, STUK is housed in the Arenberg Building, renovated by architect Willem Jan Neutelings. STUK is now a house with many rooms: inviting, visible and wanting to be discovered. STUK shares the building with FONK (who manages? the movies at STUK), LOKO Cultuur (the student culture organisation) and the K.U.Leuven Culture Office. The K.U.Leuven gave the building to STUK on a 50 year leasehold and co-financed the renovation of certain spaces used by the university as well (STUK Auditorium, STUK Ensemblezaal, offices of the Dienst Cultuur K.U.Leuven, ...). STUK was the builder, and financed the other renovations (with support of the Flemish Community, the city of Leuven and the province).
Arts centre STUK is now located on the former Arenberg Site, a group of neogothic buildings on a slope between the Naamsestraat and the Schapenstraat. The new building meets the high demands of both STUK and the university, which co-inhabits the building. This was not easy, the site being quite small and marked by a striking difference in height. The front part on the Naamsestraat and the back part on the Schapenstraat were renovated to the utmost and largely adapted to the requirements. One of the university's most beautiful auditoriums and the side part, housing the offices, were maintained and only slightly renovated. The rest of the building was torn down, making room for an ingenious new building.
Behind the façade of the old part on the Naamsestraat is a design that meets the arts centre's demands in a daringly playful yet functional way. As a whole it is a structural gem, the perfect answer to the challenging requirements of a difficult location, and an urban surplus as well. The complex is organized around a patio, to which most parts of the building are oriented. Neutelings saw this as urban design on a micro level, the "city in the city". The building complex serves as a micro-city entity, thereby communicating with the actual city context. The theatre, a historic stepping stone for STUK as an arts centre, is reflected in a multitude of oriels and balconies, referring to theatre's quintessential icons: Romeo and Juliet. The building makes a clear link with the surrounding town by ways of wide views of the city, rooms overlooking the patio, and a public passage that literally intersects the complex.
The new building does not show itself to the passer-by immediately, but through a massive play of volumes it uncovers itself as a complex clew of halls and levels. Underneath is an ingenious network of reinforced concrete, making every room acoustically independent through the box-in-box-principle. For technical needs, the complex contains two inserted passages that allow direct access to all rooms. Every room is wheelchair-accessible. The new shed roof, which heightened the upper level and turned it into a perfect (dance) studio, gives the old part of the building on the Naamsestraat a striking fragility and strained form. Four enormous letters - STUK -, advanced between the railing and an iron bar, mark the street side. In a casual view, they create a modern point of attention, with the older building volume in the background. Since it is visible from the Naamsestraat, with thousands of pedestrians and cyclists passing by, it serves as STUK's emblematic representative. Apart from the dancing studio, the street side houses the STUKcafe at street level, topped by STUK Expozaal and STUK Verbeeckzaal for workshops of the university.
The basement level was opened up, creating a foyer-slash-reception area, directly accessible from the Naamsestraat and linked to the patio at the back. Thus, the reception area is part of a walking route leading from the Naamsestraat, over the patio to the Schapenstraat. In Neutelings' structural approach of the new building, the play on volume of the windows as balconies enhances the motif of the theatre as an urban happening. Inside, the Leuven skyline pops up every now and then. See-throughs, an open-air stand and a passage for pedestrians allow for the arts to flourish in this "city in the city".
The new building contains a movie theatre named Cinema ZED, with 96 deep-red plush chairs and walls and ceilings in black leather. Cinema ZED is managed by vzw FONK, in residence at STUK. Next to that, we have STUK Ensemblezaal, a marked room with pale golden bricks and a dark red parquet floor, used for rehearsals of the university's music ensembles. STUK Soetezaal, a medium-sized theatre and dancing hall, shows the most profiled side of Neutelings approach.The STUK Soetezaal has a playing area of 14 by 12 meters, expandable with two side stages and accommodated with a fixed tribune for 221 people. The hall is the most prominent building volume. Through an enormous window, one of the side stages overlooks the patio all the way to the overlying STUKcafe, while the passersby of Leuven literally walk underneath the stage. The walls are finished with oiled concrete, cast in a diamond-shaped bas-relief. The stairway leading up to STUK Soetezaal is contained in a concrete shaft, debouching at the top into a corridor with the Leuven skyline.
This sight on the Dijle valley also marks STUK Labozaal at the back part of the building, a converted chemistry lab that already served as a dancing studio before the rebuilding. This room has four windows, doubled at the outside by four oversized attachment frames that control the amount of light and give the back side of the building its own distinct look.With a floor area of 20 by 15 meters, the room has no fixed tribune. It is provided with a rusty brown grid wall, integrating the room's ventilation. Underneath the room is STUK Paviljoenenzaal, a room with 5 soundproof wooden boxes and a couple of darkrooms. Finally, one floor below, there are two basic rehearsal studios.