Inbev Headquarters Leuven
newly built offices
Leuven is unimaginable without the pungently sweet scent of hops and barley in the warm summer months. The brewing company AB Inbev originated here centuries ago as the Stella Artois brewery. The headquarters of this multinational corporation are still located in Leuven. The factories around the Vaartkom are now abandoned. Industrial activity has shifted to the other side of the ring road. Where the old factories once stood, a new city district is emerging; Tweewaters.
IDENTITY VERSUS FLEXIBILITY
In 2001, the company launched a design contest for the construction of its new headquarters on Vaartkom. The company’s request was something of a paradox. On the one hand, built at a high-profile location along the ring road, the headquarters needed to express Inbev’s corporate identity and values. On the other, it needed to be a flexible, multi-tenant building liable to accommodate other companies as well.
By defining these parameters, the multinational was responding to a changing market trend. A head office used to be designed as a flagship proclaiming the importance of the company. These days, companies operating in a global economy are more cautious about the location of their base of operations.
The headquarters are housed in a striking, high-profile building with a wine-coloured brick facade and rhythmical, vertical window slits. The severe outlook is softened by spacious indoor terraces and, at strategic locations, a window frame in natural stone. ‘Each variation in the facade increases expressiveness, but reduces flexibility.’
As the first new building project in Tweewaters, the headquarters are a powerful presence in the new city district. The building has a triangular footprint. It does not have a rear. The facade turned to the ring road and the one facing Tweewaters are both front facades. The entrance is not situated on the ring road, but has been oriented towards the new neighbourhood. This shift was made possible by raising the building onto piles. Visitors entering the building from the ring road walk under the arcade through to the central patio.
The patio offers access to the impressive glass foyer between two wings of the building. The foyer floor is covered in the same stone as the patio floor. The boundary between inside and outside blurs, giving the foyer a more public, more inviting character as an extension of the outdoor space. Visitors are welcome here.
photography: Filip Van Loock
Vincent Van Duysen
winning competition design, laureate Belgian Building Award 2006, nomination Belgische Prijs Architectuur 2005