wvdm living lab

For the past year Maker architecten has been involved in the research and implementation of circular renovation strategies on post-war architecture in Brussels. The subject to our work is the VUB University Campus student housing designed in 1973 by the modernist architect Willy Van Der Meeren. Through this project, one of the first of its kind, he experimented with prefabricated modular systems imported from Switzerland to create a student village in which it´s inhabitants could find domesticity and smaller scale spaces in an experimental urban gesture.

What started as a group of “mobil-homes” fixed into temporary units that could be arranged according to future needs turned into fixed prefabricated modules in concrete that could be still rearranged by means of a heavy crane. Its layout enclosed a network of outdoor passages, front door gardens and public squares that enhanced social interaction and reduced to cero its residual spaces. With a rigid prefab three-dimensional module combined in groups of four, Willy Van Der Meeren managed to give life to a collection of sceneries meant for everyone. He aimed to create varied façades, irregular volumes and unexpected vistas to create a playful environment of 352 units in which students could get lost, share spaces and build up a strong community.

The result was a fanciful, varied unity in which the pragmatic benefits of the prefabrication system were exploited to the full but without an architecturally dull or monotonous result. Our aim is to bring light into a decisive example of innovation and building development in Belgium that established a whole field of prefab production and to save this fine example of The VUB University Campus from a threatening demolition prospect

Competition: 1st Prize

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Program: Student housing

Client: University of Brussels

Surface: 400 m²

Team: VK architects en engineers, Beneens, Origin, VITO