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Ronald

Cities of Belgium - Pt. 2 - Louvain la Neuve

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Okay, so four threads might not be enough to share all my photos from my 8-day tour of Belgium with planning students and staff from my uni. Later, Ghent, Brugge, the Coast, Ieper and Mons will follow. This thread is about

Louvain-la-Neuve

This city was created from scratch in 1971. It was the first new town to be founded in Belgium since Charleroi (which was founded 3 centuries prior). The city finds its orgins in the language battle that has been going on in Belgium for decades. The prestigious university of Leuven (Louvain in French) insisted on kicking out all french-speaking professors and students in 1968. So they founded New Leuven (Louvain-la-Neuve) in the french-speaking part of the nation. By the late 70s, the transfer was completed and the two language groups were completely seperated.

The town is also very interessting from a planning point of view. It was built around 9 principles:

1. A city on the 'human scale'

2. The local 'site' determines the layout of the city

3. The university is the 'engine' of the city

4. Attempting to reach a high social diversity (building homes for many income classes)

5. The city is built for pedestrians first, other modes of transportation come in second.

6. An urban 'atmosphere' must be created from the very beginning (a lively atmosphere).

7. Flexibility: when different types of land use are demanded on the market, the city should be able to adapt itself to that demand. This principle builts on the idea that the city should be able to support a change in urban functions.

8. Safe-guard the development of an urban centre. The idea here is, that the city should not grow into a structure-less agglomeration (there are plenty of those in Belgium already). The growth of the entire city will be realized in good relation to the existing city centre (In short, balanced city growth).

9. The city should be well-integrated into the environment, and it should not pollute the surrounding landscape.

Enough talking, here are some pictures already.

Central square.

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Housing above stores, around the central square.

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Students still rule the city's streetscape.

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Aula Magna, where major events (such as graduation ceremonies) are held.

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Cars are delegated to the edges of the city. You park them here, and walk through town from there on.

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In the quieter streets, it becomes obvious that this city was built for pedestrians.

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Back in the centre. These streets are designed in a way, to resemble old medieval city centres (the streets are somewhat curvy, and buildings on either side of the streets aren't exactly symmetrical). It makes for quite a paradox, as all of the buildings were built in 1971 or after that.

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Art can be found on many walls in the city.

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Fresh strawberries, anyone?

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The oldest building in town: this farmhouse was around before everything else.

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The farmhouse above was built along an existing road (pictured below).

Pedestrian roads like this one connect residential neighbourhoods with each other, they are the main 'thoroughfares' of the town.

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Brutalist architecture? These concrete structures look like they haven't been maintained too well since the seventies.

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The city is doing quite well. Recently, this shopping mall (the biggest in French-speaking Belgium) has been opened up. If you leave it through the back door, you are facing empty farmland. That shows just how young the city is.

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Underneath the city centre (and exactly in the middle of the centre!), a railway station has been built. This was one of the very first finished constructions in the city. Louvain-la-Neuve is situated ideally, at 30km from Brussels, 32 from Namur and 40 from Charleroi. Many people live in Louvain and work in Brussels. The other way around, many students still live with their parents in Brussels for example, and take the train to the uni during weekdays.

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To finish off, a few shots from the city centre.

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Everything taken together, I found it a very interessting town. I did feel like I was walking in some sort of themed holiday park, however (it's pretty unusuall to see nothing but buildings from 1971 or after that, it makes the town look fake).

I have recently finished a report on the development of this city, it's been a great assignment to work on !

Keep an eye on the photos forum for more of my pics ;)

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