Day-long Tour 4: East Flanders

Libraries: Utopia, Public Library De Krook & University Library Book Tower

Type of Library: public and academic

Total Distance Return Trip: 320 km

Meeting Point: Ahoy Rotterdam

Price per Person: € 25

Utopia – the Library and Academy for Performing Arts

Utopia, the Library and Academy for Performing Arts, housed within a brand new building designed by KAAN Architecten, has opened its doors to the Flemish city of Aalst, following an open competition launched in 2015 by the City Council. The 8.000 square-meter brick structure incorporates a striking historic building from the second half of the Nineteenth century and rejuvenates the urban landscape while elegantly giving expression to the required functionality. The city chose to establish a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) based on a Design & Build contract. The project was assigned to the team consisting of Van Roey as main contractor and KAAN Architecten as architect that worked in close collaboration. Taking its cue from Thomas More’s acclaimed book “Utopia”, first printed by prominent Aalst citizen Dirk Martens, the new building has been slotted into the urban fabric to enhance the characteristic irregular streets and intimate spaces of the city center, and to interact with them. Utopia Aalst has been named Best Library of Flanders and Brussels 2019.

Bibliotheek De Krook

Bibliotheek De Krook – named after the bend in the river Scheldt along which it was erected – is described as being more than a library. The city library of Ghent has, since its opening in March 2017, been showered with praise and plaudits. Designed by Belgian architects Coussée & Goris, in cooperation with the Catalan office RCR Arquitectes (Pritzker Prize winners in 2017), it has been heralded as a ‘landmark’, ‘a connection point’ and ‘a cultural catalyst’. This architectural work of art is a unique meeting place for residents, students and visitors. Various institutions work together and offer services at the site. In addition to the city library, imec (the Flemish research centre for nanoelectronics and digital technologies), Ghent University and its radio are housed at this absolute eye-catcher that has also revived an old city neighbourhood.

The Booktower

The Booktower, also called Ghent’s fourth tower, is a modernistic masterpiece by Belgian architect Henry van de Velde. It was designed as a university library and is still used for that purpose today. It houses an extensive collection of books, magazines, manuscripts, maps, posters and many more. The Booktower manages one of the largest heritage collections in the Low Countries. The 64 meter high concrete building has 24 floors, with an impressive underground depot and an amazing Belvedère at the top of the tower, which offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Ghent. Its architecture makes it a well known and much visited landmark in the city. The library provides off course access to published academic research, the heritage collections and many different research sources, but it also functions as a meeting point, that stimulates study, sharing knowledge and experiences. We do not only welcome students and researchers, but also cultural organizations, residents and visitors from around the world.