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OWL SCHOOL

OWL SCHOOL

The least one might say about this Owl School is that it has had a turbulent history. It was the first Flemish “normal school” (a teacher training college), founded in 1816 under the reign of King William I. It was established as a “national breeding school” (a training institute for teachers), to raise Dutch-language education to a higher level of quality. There were not only Flemish students, but also “refugees” from other parts of the Netherlands, Wallonia and Luxembourg. The school experienced a big bloom. After the Belgian Revolution it was taken over by the Catholic Church, who continued the teacher training. The school played a crucial role in the defense of state education. Although after the education law of 1842 it became a “state normal school", the leadership remained in the hands of priests, because it was no easy task to find properly trained directors outside the Catholic Church.

The original school buildings were largely destroyed during the First World War. Thanks to the generous compensation of the German war damage, the opportunity was found to erect new, modern buildings. Most of the current buildings date from 1926. After the Second World War the offer was extended to a secondary department (training for high school teachers). The school flourished, but nevertheless saw a relapse after the school reform of 1970. In 2012, the 195 year old history of the “Rijksnormaalschool” came to an end. The main reason was the outdated infrastructure. The city was looking for a different function of the site, with the aim of preserving as many of the historic buildings as possible. A redevelopment project will transform the former school into a mix of functions: housing, work and retail. From January 2019 the works will start…


BYZANTIUM

BYZANTIUM

The economic expansion in the first half of the 19th century, and in particular the construction of a new railway line, led to spectacular population growth in this neighborhood. The parish chapel, where until then the worship services for this parish were held, quickly became too small for the 18,000-soul parish. There was a need for a new, spacious church. The city architect drew the plans, but after disagreement about the stability they were carried out in a simplified form by the city’s building master. The works started in the mid-1850s. Thirteen years later, the church was inaugurated, even though she was unfinished at that moment and would remain so. The tower that had to crown the church on the west side never came.

The style of the church, the so-called ‘Rundbogenstil’, is eclectic with a dominance of Romanesque and Gothic elements. The round arch windows have Romanesque design and Gothic tracery. Groundbreaking in ecclesiastical architecture is the use of cast iron for the main ribs and the three-step arches. The biggest innovation in this is the roof span with two iron polonceauspants, per bay. This roof truss is made up of two under-stressed triangular beams, which are connected by a drawbar. The interior is also predominantly neo-Roman with neo-Gothic decorative elements. The monumental murals, which took more time to paint than the construction of the church itself, give this spectacularly beautiful church an oriental-Byzantine atmosphere.

After having fallen in disuse almost two decades ago, the city has now decided to sell the church to a project developer. Since the whole church and its interior are protected as cultural heritage, the possibilities for another use of the building are rather limited…


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