On Thursday 8 June STUK reopens its doors, after a renovation of over 18 months. During that time, STUK became more sustainable, more accessible and more inclusive. But what does that really mean? Why was it necessary? What are we building up when rebuilding? The answers lie below, in a text by infrastructure manager Willem Vanderhoydonks and STUK director Steven Vandervelden.
With the renovation, we made STUK more sustainable, more accessible and more inclusive. But what does that mean in practice? And why was it necessary? What are we building up when rebuilding STUK? You get the answers in the text below.
What we build up when rebuilding STUK
On 15 November 2021, we closed the doors of STUK. Not to prepare a performance or an exhibition, but for a large-scale renovation. For lack of a permanent location, we moved around the city with a nomadic programme. All those location projects were fascinating and often successful, but working without our own infrastructure was not always easy. We missed our building. The road to the reopening was long and the conversion itself was often complex.
You don't close your building just like that, especially after two years of covid crisis. So why did we start it anyway? In short: what are we building up when rebuilding STUK?
Our future has to be more sustainable and inclusive, that applies to every sector and therefore also to the arts. With the renovation of our infrastructure, we put our money where our mouth is.
When it comes to the climate, we have no choice but to face a difficult reality. It is now or never. The ecological footprint of major infrastructure in our cities is considerable, and so is STUK's. The oldest wings of our building date back to 1909 and, with 10,000 square metres of surface area, you can safely call STUK a city within the city. So it goes without saying that the climate gains from a thorough renovation are considerable. As an institution and a sector, we don't want to lag behind but rather take the lead. 200 single-glazed windows were replaced with double-glazed windows and our roofs were better insulated. Our heating systems have been scrutinised. We are fully committed to the LED transition, both our theatre lighting and our fixed lighting became a lot more sustainable. Our outdoor areas were partly softened and greened. Wherever possible, we put infiltration crates in the ground. This way, rainwater does not end up in the sewer, but runs back in the soil. We also switched from drinking water to rainwater for the sanitary facilities.
Traditionally, we see STUK as a semi-public space. The building with all its outdoor spaces is there for everyone. At almost any time of day, you can walk through STUK as if you were walking through a park or down the street. That also means we have a responsibility. Time and again, it is shown that well-designed public spaces are essential for a city's well-being. That is why our renovation focuses, among other things, on upgrading its outdoor spaces. An integrated design with numerous new benches, seating areas, greenery and lighting will create a pleasant and safe environment for everyone. And by everyone, we really do mean everyone. Thanks to 3 new lifts, electric doors, ramps and the removal of level differences, STUK will become more accessible. We replace wooden doors and walls with glass ones. This makes our building much easier to orientate and this predictability means less stress for many. Guiding strips ensure that everyone can get to the STUKcafé or the STUK Reception independently.
In a survey beforehand, we also listened carefully to what our artists and our public considered important. So there will be a large, easily accessible bike shed in Schapenstraat and one on Naamsestraat, albeit smaller. You no longer have to go outside for the toilets because they will be at STUK Reception level, there will be lockers in various places, the Ateliers have been upgraded and there will be an extra door between the café and Naamsestraat which will act as an extra buffer for noise and heat. Except for the toilets, all these interventions need to be finalised or installed after Artefact, but they will be ready before STUK START in September.
Finally, the renovation also allows us to make the core of our own operation more inclusive. We are realising a new building layer that will be used to build participatory activities under the name STEK, connecting bottom-up and top-down in a vibrant and inclusive community. A 'STEK' in Dutch has 3 meanings: 1) a place, 2) a match and 3) a branch from which a new plant can grow. In other words, STEK will be a low-threshold incubator where sparks arise that will provide (artistic) renewal for the entire arts centre (*).
The refurbishment results in a redesigned room and a new room, connected to each other:
- STEK Workspace (the former Paviljoenenzaal) contains a cosy coworking space, 2 workshop or meeting rooms, an audio studio, a piano pavilion, 2 small rehearsal rooms, a kitchenette, lockers and the office of LOKO Culture, the Leuven student’s working around culture.
- Next to STEK Workspace is STEK, a soundproof, underground hall for 155 people with a fixed bar and a standard sound and lighting plan.
STEK is an open place for anyone who wants to develop creatively as a maker, doer, organiser, curator, artist, radio or podcast maker, regardless of background, age, discipline or medium. Both individuals and organisations are welcome, with one-off initiatives or recurring projects, from Leuven or beyond. Users of STEK contribute to a varied offer. In the STEK Workspace, open to all, a cosy bustle will reign while meetings, rehearsals and radio shows are going on. STEK will host concerts, spoken word, performances, short exhibitions, debates and parties. What is conceived and created in the Workspace can be shown in STEK. So from now on, as a STUK visitor, you can take on multiple roles: one time you come as a visitor, another time as an organiser or creator.
The renovation of STUK is a project of STUK Arts Centre. The total project cost is 5.5 million euro and was financed by the Flemish Government, the City of Leuven and an own contribution of STUK partly supported by KU Leuven. The project was designed by Neutelings-Riedijk Architects in collaboration with Bureau Bouwtechniek and carried out by main contractor Monument Vandekerckhove and its subcontractors.
* STEK will properly start in 2024, once everything has been installed and STUK is working as normal again.
The visual renovation
Curious to discover the new STUK? Have a look at the (regularly updated) gallery below!
Pictures © Joeri Thiry / STUK
Update june 2022
An important part of the renovation is STUK, a new space in STUK where young initiatives get time and room to grow. In the middle of the renovation works, we organised a talk (in Dutch) about STEK and participatory projects with David Martens, Audrey Leboutte of Zinnema, Karolien Derwael of klein verzet, and Barbara T'Jonck, Zoë Demoustier and Eline Dewaele of Platform In De Maak. Relive our STUK Talks on participation below!
Update February 22
If you passed by STUK recently, you probably noticed: the renovation works have scaled up. For instance, there is a huge crane on our courtyard, moving tons of debris over the building into waste containers. But how can you get a crane onto a closed courtyard? Well, you need a second crane! Watch the timelapse below.
The current renovation of STUK is not the first on the Naamsestraat and Schapenstraat site. In 2022 STUK opened the doors of a fully renovated building on the former Arenberg site - then, just like now, a design by architect Willem Jan Neutelings. On 10 January we celebrated 20 years STUK building, so let's look back at 20 years ago in pictures!
Where are we in terms of renovations? We have stripped the offices, artist kitchen and toilets, they will be rejuvenated and the toilets will make space for a new space for young initiatives. More info in the video and interviews below!
The renovation story in 1 minute
Willem Vanderhoydonks, head of facility management, guides you through the renovation plans in 1 minute.
Why do we need this renovation, and how will it make STUK a better place for all? The answers come from two people who know all about the renovation: Carl Meeusen of Neutelings Riedijk Architects and STUK head of facility management Willem Vanderhoydonks. Read their interviews published in our dance brochure below.