Gasthuisberg Pharmacy and Health Sciences Campus

extension campus KU Leuven
Gasthuisberg is a hospital built on a hill. Starting in the 1970s, the University of Leuven gradually relocated its hospital and educational functions from the historic city centre to the periphery. In 2001 POLO won the contest to design teaching and research facilities for the faculties of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.


Surface area
KU Leuven
  • POLO Architects - Archiduk - Modulo - Roelandts & Rys - Hans de Petter
Landscape design
  • Dirk Vandekerkhove Landschapsarchitecten
winning competition design
Stijn Bollaert

Hill visible again

The largely brutalist volumes in Gasthuisberg climb, descend and curve along with the elevations of the hill. Successive additions have erased the exceptional topography. The hill has vanished beneath a mound of buildings. 

Allowing the natural mountain to resurface was the crucial thrust behind the design. Three volumes, embedded in the hillside like rocks, carry a long, high volume that connects the sections. Rather than following the curves of the topography, the beam is perpendicular to the elevation lines. The hill is once more visible and tangible.

Experiencing the surroundings

The suspended beam houses the labs and research offices. Rather than being routed through a central hall with rooms on either side, circulation is organized along the periphery. This layout increases the scale and allows for more flexible use of the available space. The plan creates future options for shifting or blurring the divisions between offices and labs or between the faculties. A second advantage of the peripheral hallway is the experience of the surrounding area. Students and researchers can enjoy a spectacular view of the hill.

The expansion restructures the existing complex. A largely disused, dark, dilapidated patio between two older wings of the building becomes the beating heart of the campus thanks to the intervention. The natural topography of Gasthuisberg is revealed in the patio and the open space around the buildings. The array of entrances, stairwells, halls and ramps creates a lively dynamic of coming and going, meeting and residing.

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