The time has come, the Maternity department of the Bijlokesite is going under renovation.
laGeste is accommodated with its offices on the first floor of Maternity of the Bijlokesite in Ghent. In October 2023 we will temporarily move to the spaces above Studio laGeste, right next to Maternity. We are looking forward to a more accessible and sustainable workplace.
Spurred on by Mayor Frank Beke, Alderman Sas Van Rouveroy of the City of Ghent and provincial governor of East Flanders Herman Balthazar, two decisions of principle were taken in 2003.
In a first decision by the City of Ghent, Maternity and the fallow land next to it were allocated to les ballets C de la B (now laGeste) and Het Muziek LOD (now LOD Muziektheater). The aim was to establish their offices there and build two new rehearsal studios in which each could create and finish performances.
A second decision involved a commitment from the Province of East Flanders to guarantee a €1,000,000 loan to build the studios. With these two levers, Minister of Culture Bert Anciaux could be convinced to -in turn- provide €1,500,000 with FOCI funds (Cultural Infrastructure Fund) to build the studios.
The city of Ghent's decision was part of a wider strategy to create an arts campus on the Bijloke site. The Bijloke has housed both civil and religious hospitals since the Middle Ages.
Today, the Bijloke Music Centre is housed in the monumental infirmary built from 1251.
KASK - School of Arts is accommodated in the buildings of the former 19th-century civil hospital designed by city architect Adolphe Pauli.
The STAM (Ghent City Museum), among others, is housed in several 17th-century monastery wings. Construction of the Maternity department began in 1863.
Until 1970, thousands of Ghent citizens saw the light of day there. Today, the Bijloke site has no less than 15 organisations active in the cultural field or artistic education.
In 2003, Jan De Vylder and Trice Hofkens, as promising young architects, were engaged to design the studios together with the builders, les ballets C de la B and Het Muziek LOD. This resulted in two architectural gems at the end of 2008, which not only enter into a particularly fascinating dialogue with the historic surroundings, but which, after 15 years, are still among the best-equipped places for creation in Ghent and its surroundings. Director Alain Platel would prefer to work only there. But dozens of other directors, hundreds of dancers, musicians and actors also came to rehearse there. The studios also put the work of architects Jan De Vylder and Trice Hofkens on the world map.
The restoration and conversion of Maternity had a much more arduous course. Maternity was classified as a monument (both the inner and outer shell) in 1980. This also meant that any changes to the interior or exterior had to go through a burdensome procedure for approval. The cost of restoration and conversion increased every year. Not in the least because in the period between 1980 and today, views on the reuse of historical buildings were fundamentally reassessed. Meanwhile, the condition of the building deteriorated visibly to the point where a ruin was narrowly avoided.
In June 2023, the College of Aldermen and the City Council of the City of Ghent decided to release the necessary funds for a thorough restoration and renovation of Maternity. The Flemish government stepped in with Corona funds and ‘Monuments and Landscapes’ subsidised the most necessary restoration costs.
Works are scheduled to begin in the early months of 2024. The entire construction campaign is estimated at 2.5 years. The design is by StudioBont Architects led by Maarten Baeye and Karen Kesteloot. The works should transform Maternity into a modern but austere office complex with attention to accessibility and flexible workplaces. At the same time, various organisations can each develop their specific operations there alongside one another. Wherever possible, functions will be shared (common reception and dining area, common storage rooms, shared IT system, etc.). In terms of energy, heat exchange was chosen. We do regret that we could not convince the services of 'Monuments and Landscapes' to install solar panels on the roof structure of Maternity.
laGeste fought together with LOD Muziektheater for 15 years to create the support base and collect the necessary funds that would lead to an embedment of Maternity for the Ghent performing arts sector.
Ontroerend Goed will finally become the third resident after the renovation.
We are proud that the time has come and eagerly look forward to mid-2026 when we return to the belly of a renewed Maternity.