Conversion of the Gebléishal in Belval
The former Belval turbine hall—known also as the Gebléishal—has considerable mnemonic significance for multiple generations of former steel workers, as well as for the genius loci, which was not always taken into account in the transformation of the former Adolf-Emil ironworks into a Cité des Sciences. It represents an important space of potential in a site that has almost entirely been designed, and which today has significant deficits. While Belval has recently received rather positive reviews in the international press in the context of Esch-sur-Alzette as European Capital of Culture, many of its users have been dissatisfied about the lack of green areas and affordable housing, over-regulated processes and expensive ground floor zones, and about public spaces devoid of any potential to be appropriated by its users.
In the titling of Belval as a campus, which diverges with the insistence of the two public and semi-public developers—Fonds Belval and Agora—that it is an urban neighbourhood, lies another and more complex problem of Belval: on the one hand, the university conducts teaching and research in buildings whose programmes and spatial designs hardly allow for an exchange with civil society, and, on the other, the rest of the area has not, at least not to date, produced a socially mixed, lively urban society. The latter is due to the low proportion of housing, especially affordable housing not least for students, but also to the large-grained urban structure, where mixing was misinterpreted as a combination of work, retail, and a reduced amount of housing. As this study outlines, Gebléishal, although not able to solely completely eliminate these deficits, its size and location—and its unfinished state—give it the potential to counter these shortcomings with a contrasting space. It can, as well, promote community building and co-creation, operate as an interface between science, teaching, and civil society and thus bring research and everyday life closer together, and furthermore offer citizens and especially students spaces for appropriation and improvisation.
The feasibility study report summarises the collaborative work of the architects team at the University of Luxembourg on the feasibility study for the adaptive reuse of the Gebléishal in Belval commisioned by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Luxembourg in September 2022.
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Florian Hertweck
Research and Design Team: Melsida Babayan, Francelle Cane, Caroline Faber, Kasra Karami, Dr. Marija Maric, Siranuysh Martirosyan, Prof. Dr. Markus Miessen, Dr. César Reyes Najera, Gustav Kjær Vad Nielsen, Dr. David Peleman, Philippe Schmit, Beatriz Klettner Soler, Céline Zimmer
Experts: Prof. Dr. Joachim Hansen, Prof. Dr. Stefan Maas, Prof. Dr. Christoph Odenbreit, Prof. Dr. Frank Scholzen, Prof. Dr. Denis Scuto
Administrative Support: Brigitte Batyko, Sara Volterrani