A new tower for Books

In 1935 Henry van de Velde finished his designs for the Boekentoren (Book Tower) of Ghent, beacon in the skyline of Ghent. If all goes well, this tower should be restored in it’s original state by 2019.

Henry van de Velde designed the tower, which was completed in 1939, with the supporting knowhow of Gustave Magnel and Jean-Norbert Cloquet, both professors at the University of Ghent. It was declared a protected monument in 1992. Situated on the highest ground in the city, the tower would act as a beacon, a symbol of the university, of science, wisdom and knowledge. It was Ghent’s fourth tower.

Boekentoren Gent | Original plan

I was lucky to visit the tower in 2009, just before renovations would start. This elaborate renovation was set in motion by Andre Singer, after he acquired Henry van de Velde’s plans for the tower in 2002.Renovations are lead by Robbrecht and Daem, supported by Barbara Van der wee, Sum Projects, Diadalos Peutz, Bureau d’Etudes Greisch and VK Engineering.

The building in reinforced concrete is 64 metres high, has four storeys in the basement, twenty above ground level. The belvedère on top is breathtaking. The setting was perfectly used in this presentation from A.F. Vandevorst, featuring Lisbeth Gruwez:

The restoration started on March 2012 and has 5 phases:

  • Phase 1 (2011-2013): Construction of the underground repository beneath the courtyard. Re-modelling of the present computer workplaces and a furnishing of a fully-fledged basement and mezzanine, where an environment for study will be developed providing working space for groups and multimedia.
  • Phase 2 (2013-2016): Restoration of the tower (above and below ground level), façade included. Furnishing of the Belvedère.
  • Phase 3 (2013-2016): Restoration of the reading rooms (main reading room, periodicals reading room, map room and manuscript reading room). Repair of all exteriors and re-laying-out of the courtyard.
  • Phase 4 (2016-2019): Furnishing of a reader’s café and the HIKO wing with auditoria.
  • Phase 5 (2016-2019): Furnishing of library personnel offices and construction of a bicycle shelter.

Like a true modernist architect, Henry van de Velde designed every possible detail for the interior: furniture, window frames, floor patterns. My impressions of the building:

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This renovation is truely a renovation 2.0 project, you can find small features on vimeo. Be sure to watch the first episode:

And mark 2020 in your calendar for a visit to the newly restored tower!

Street address
Rozier 9, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

Want to read more?
Visit the official site of the university of Ghent.
You can follow the restoration on Facebook.

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