The arts campus is expanding by about 12,000 sq. m.


A building project by the Flemish Community and Antwerp Polytechnic
for deSingel international arts campus and the Antwerp Polytechnic Conservatory


The opening of the Conservatory in 1968 was the fulfilment of Peter Benoit's (1834-1901) dream. In 1898 this composer became the director of the 'Royal Flemish Conservatory of Music'. Benoit's ideas went beyond the education of students and the training of performing artists: he dreamed of involving the whole population in the international world of music and theatre. Alongside the music school he wanted an auditorium where not only students but also the general public could engage in the whole range of art and culture on offer. Sixty years later, Léon Stynen designed a complex of buildings for the Flemish Conservatory of Music on the Wezenberg in Antwerp. In the spirit of Benoit's dream, the building grew into the arts campus it is today.

After the design was drawn up in 1958, the work of the Royal Flemish Conservatory of Music expanded from a part-time to a full-time educational institution. New courses such as jazz were offered. In 1995 the Conservatory became part of Antwerp Polytechnic and the dance, drama and music courses were grouped into a single department. The successive heads of department, Michael Scheck, Herman Marien and Pascale De Groote, worked to acquire an auditorium suitable for orchestral rehearsals, public examinations and chamber music concerts. To enhance the synergies between music, drama and dance, and between 'showing art' and 'learning art', Antwerp Polytechnic also wanted to house the drama (Herman Teirlinck Institute) and dance (Higher Dance Institute) courses in this building. In the meantime, the Bachelor/Master restructuring and the moves to make higher education 'academic' were also taking place (2004).


In 1980, under the leadership of Frie Leysen - who was originally engaged by the then director of the Conservatory, Eugène Traey, to take care of hall rentals - deSingel opened its two auditoria and launched the 1983-4 season with its own artistic programme. The centre expanded into an international arts centre. At Jerry Aerts' instigation, deSingel has continued to develop and is now an open arts campus that houses resident ensembles such as Champ d'Action and several independent institutions such as the Flanders Architecture Institute. If Flanders wishes to continue playing a prominent role in the network of large-scale international performing arts, deSingel is the most suitable place to achieve it. After all, it has two large auditoria and a good basic infrastructure for presenting the arts. In addition, it has built up the knowhow and the international contacts needed for the further development of its emphatically international operations. But it lacks the rehearsal rooms for production work and the infrastructure to receive and inform the public. The Flemish Community has also opted to allot the Flanders Architecture Institute, which is developing apace, a more prominent place in the complex.


The cohabitation of the various occupants of the complex requires adaptation and an expansion of the building. In order to be able to fulfil the role of arts campus to the full, the infrastructure has to be developed and extended, both for production and for learning and presentation. For this reason the architect Stéphane Beel (1955) was in 1995 asked to study the building's needs and potential and to take responsibility for its extension. The first stage of his masterplan, the low building behind the Red and Blue Halls, has already been built (1999-2000). The next stage starts in autumn 2007.

This new building will give external form to the great project for the future of deSingel and the Conservatory, which is the creation of a unique and international arts campus. A place where the arts are not only shown, but also taught, learned and produced.


The architecture of this campus, designed and built by the architect Léon Stynen (1899-1990) with the assistance of Paul De Meyer (1922), has a timeless appeal. Stynen conceived a cultural centre that was unique in Flanders. The building represents not only a snapshot in stone of that time, fifty years ago, but also shows us that a building grows and changes over time. The complex has absorbed adaptations and extensions with no loss of character. When it comes to extension and conservation, modern monuments require a special approach. Previous careful adaptations and the future extension by Stéphane Beel Architects can only enrich the architecture and activities of the complex.

1 the architect LÉON STYNEN 2 Verstrepen house, Boom, 1927 3 Casino Ostend, 1942 4 Casino Chaudfontaine, 1938 5 entrance hall deSingel/Conservatory 6 model of deSingel/Conservatory 7 pool, deSingel/Conservatory 8 De Beukelaer house, Brasschaat, 1936

(Source of images 2, 3, 4, 6, 8: Collection Architecture archive Province Antwerp)


9 the architect STÉPHANE BEEL 10 museum site Leuven, 2006-2009 11 law courts, Ghent, 1998-2007 12 Raveel museum in Machelen aan de Leie, 1995-1999 13 room 138 Antwerp Conservatory © Jan Kempenaers 14 stage 4.1 deSingel/Conservatory © Jan Kempenaers, 1999-2000 15 doors deSingel 16 Africa Museum, Tervuren, 2010-2013


1968 1980 1987 2000 2010

Léon Stynen

The complex is sometimes called 'Stynen's testament' or 'the most complete summary of his oeuvre'. The building is part of the urban design Stynen drew up for the Wezenberg: 'the city amidst the greenery', a landscape that elaborates on the green hills and water of the moats and which was to include several tower blocks. This urban design plan was only executed piecemeal, in the form of the BP building, the Crest Hotel and deSingel. The building of the ring-road, the railway line and other traffic routes in the vicinity cut across and thwarted this plan. Its design and construction took at least three decades and for Stynen was at times a real torment. 1968 saw the opening of the low building shaped like an incomplete '8', which housed the Conservatory.
The second stage comprised the building of the section for Radio 2 Antwerp (1978) and the two big auditoria (1980). The Ministry's Fine Arts Department would have preferred a single multipurpose hall, but Stynen was able to convince them of the impossibility of building a good concert hall that could also be used as a theatre. So now we have the Red Hall, for large-scale theatre, dance and music-theatre productions, and the Blue Hall for concerts. The second stage of building for the Conservatory included the library tower, which is above the Blue Hall. In 1987 came the deSingel's public foyer and an extension to the Conservatory, both to designs by Stynen and De Meyer.
Stéphane Beel Architects

Subsequent to an exhibition of his work in 1989, deSingel commissioned Stéphane Beel to design new doors to close off and provide an entrance to the corridors (exhibition space) and the halls: they are now popularly called the 'potato doors'. In these new doors Beel repeated the shapes of the oval windows in the external walls of the building, but now in the form of solid panels in the glass doors. When deSingel held an exhibition of Stynen's work in 1990, Beel, who designed it, created a fascinating route round the building. In both projects he demonstrated that he has a great affinity for the architect Léon Stynen in general and the deSingel building in particular.

The relationship of mutual trust between the building's users and Stéphane Beel continued to grow. He was approached for both major and minor work. In 1990 he designed programme sales counters for deSingel and converted a meeting room (1993) and a classroom (1998) for the Conservatory.


The masterplan for the reorganisation and expansion of deSingel and the Conservatory (1995) in the first place resulted in the creation of a circular axis and additional dressing rooms, and also in the enlargement of the Red Hall stage and the performers' bar (1999-2000). In June 2002 Bert Anciaux, the Minister of Culture, commissioned Stéphane Beel to complete the second stage of the project. Antwerp Polytechnic became an associate in the complex in October 2002. On 1st May 2003 Beel started on the definitive design. The building work will run from 2007 to 2010. The extended building is intended to be ready for the opening of the 2010-2011 academic year and performing arts season.

The new building


white hall (dance & drama)
yellow hall (music)
dance and drama practice rooms
dance studios
percussion classrooms

multimedia readingroom

deSingel international arts campus
Flanders Architecture Institute
blue studio (music workshop)
red studio (performing arts workshop)
blue foyer
exhibition area
dance studio
offices & dressing rooms
storerooms & workshop
bicycle racks


The new building is located between the ring-road, Jan Van Rijswijcklaan, one side of the 8-shaped low building and the slope of the Blue Hall corridor. The low part of the new building, a closed plinth, will contain the offices of the Flanders Architecture Institute and additional functions to improve the operations of deSingel. The high building, a horizontal slab, rises above both the new and the existing low buildings and is structurally independent from them. This horizontal slab stands out like a beacon on the ring-road and will act as a counterpoint to Stynen's three towers: the BP building, the Crest Hotel and the vertical slab above the Blue Hall of deSingel. This volume will contain the rooms for Antwerp Polytechnic's Conservatory. All the Polytechnic's performing arts courses - dance, drama and music - will thereby be united in one place, which will greatly encourage their interaction. Between the plinth and the horizontal slab there is a transparent box containing public areas. It connects up with the existing corridors of the Red and Blue halls. Among other things, this glass in-between slab contains a multimedia reading room and a café-restaurant.




Multimedia readingroom

Production and coproduction work will be much easier in the specifically designed rooms of the new building. What is more, the public will be given access to work-in-progress, or to the definitive production if the production space is best suited to this.
Guidance and education will be key words on the new arts campus, with a focus on workshops and masterclasses (public and otherwise), information related to the artistic activities, open rehearsals, talks, colloquia, and access to information on the arts for both researchers and the interested layman. In the next few years the programme for the campus will be developed so as to fulfil the role of 'deSingel international arts campus' as soon as the new building opens in 2010.



The total budget for the construction of the new building amounts to €25 million. 65% of this will be financed by the Flemish Community and 35% by Antwerp Polytechnic. The new building signifies a 12,000 sq. m. enlargement of the campus, 7,800 of which is for deSingel and 4,200 for the Conservatory.


Government Representatives

Bert Anciaux, Flemish Minister of Culture (1999-2002, 2004-)
Frank Vandenbroucke, Flemish Minister of Education (2004-)
Dirk Van Mechelen, Flemish Minister of Finance (2001-)
Paul Van Grembergen, Flemish Minister of Culture (2002-2004)
Luc Martens, Flemish Minister of Culture (1995-1999)
Hugo Weckx, Flemish Minister of Culture (1992-1995)

Antwerp Polytechnic
Investeringsfonds voor de Autonome Hogescholen (IVAH)

Fonds Culturele Infrastructuur (FoCi)
Departement of Cultuur, Jeugd, Sport en Media
Agentschap Kunsten en Erfgoed
Agentschap voor Facilitair Management
Afdeling Gebouwen Antwerpen
Agentschap Ruimtelijke Ordening Vlaanderen
Vlaams Bouwmeester
Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen nv

The Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Antwerp
Antwerp Municipal Architect
Stadsontwikkeling ruimtelijke ordening Stad Antwerpen
Welstandscommissie Stad Antwerpen
Brandweer Antwerpen

FOD Binnenlandse Zaken - Algemene Directie Civiele Veiligheid


Stéphane Beel architects
Bopro nv project management
T.Tas theatre technology
Ingenium technieken
Bureau Bouwtechniek veiligheid ontwerp
Daidalos akoestiek
Ney & Partners Engeneering stability
Abesco safety implementation
ERM soil testing


TV. Van Laere nv / CEI De Meyer nv
Axima Contracting nv (Suez)
EDF nv
Liften Coopman nv
Roden Staal België nv



Follow the progress of construction from these locations:

1 Main Entrance 2 Cloakroom 3 Circulation Area 4 Blue hall 5 Red Hall 6 Red Foyer 7 Blue Foyer 8 Blue Studio 9 Exhibition area 10 Red Studio 11 VAi * Stairs towards look-out