Knowledge center 'ARhus' Roeselare

Library as the heart of urban renewal

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How a library became the heart of the city renewal of Roeselare

The site of the Bank of Roeselare and West Flanders was of tremendous significance for the city. Therefore, after the Second World War, it formed the motor of the growth and prosperity of the commercial and industrial development of the centre of West Flanders. Restructuring in the banking world ensured that the site lost her local importance and eventually the sale took place. Because of the central location, the large area and the historic importance of the place, the rezoning of the whole interior area formed one of the most important parts of the global city centre development of Roeselare. The immediate vicinity of the busy shopping centre immediately attracted investors to turn the site into a large shopping centre, supplemented by housing and offices. Even so, the project had a difficult start, until a group of local investors took over and took the initiative to draw up a master plan.

De studie van B2Ai ging uit van een nieuwe multifunctionele binnenstedelijke ontwikkeling: appartementen, flats voor senioren, winkels, kantoren, hotels, parkeergarages. De vroegere idee van een overdekte winkelgalerij werd verlaten ten voordele van nieuw aangelegde pleinen. De participatie van de stad kwam er toen de stad het centraal gelegen kantorencomplex opkocht met de bedoeling het te herbestemmen tot een nieuwe openbare stadsbibliotheek. Op deze manier kreeg het project vorm, dankzij de publiek-private samenwerking. De inhoudelijke ambities werden zeer hoog gelegd: het zou een intense samenwerking worden tussen de diensten cultuur en onderwijs die het project mee subsidieerden. De denkoefening resulteerde in het concept van een ‘open huis’, een ontmoetingsplaats waar zowel gezinnen en scholieren, bibliofielen maar ook de toevallige passant terecht kunnen.

The study by B2Ai was based on new, multifunctional inner city development: apartments, flats for seniors, shops, offices, hotels, parking garages. The previous idea of a covered shopping mall was abandoned in favour of newly constructed courts. The city started to participate when the city bought the centrally located office complex with the intention of rezoning it as a new public city library. Thus the project took shape, thanks to public-private cooperation. The substantive ambitions were set very high: it would become an intensive cooperation between the departments of culture and education that also subsidized the project. The brainstorming resulted in the concept of an ‘open house’, a meeting place where both families and students, bibliophiles but also the casual passant can go to.

“ARhus offers a new and unique experience in the centre of Roeselare around learning, entrepreneurship and innovation and offers a contemporary, 21st century approach to knowledge and information with a mix of classical and new media.”


There is both an archive and a library, but also meeting and teaching facilities, various forums for culture and meeting areas.
The challenge for the architects was, therefore, to turn the closed bank building into an open, transparent and accessible building. All materials that emphasized the closed character of the building (mirror glass, natural stone) were removed. The new Knowledge Centre was built around the existing floor area, and was expanded along the various sides. The stairs that connect the various levels with each other were placed as an architectural walk along the interior of the facade.

The reuse of an existing building as a library formed a unique challenge regarding fire safety; the library’s catalogue is, after all, stacked up over five floors. A number of well thought-out procedures regarding compartmentalizing resulted in a Firesafety Award in 2012.
But the facade is also special and ensured that this project became a laureate at the Joinery Awards in 2012. On 22nd January this project also became laureate at the Benelux Aluminium Award in Rotterdam. The facade was detailed with customized profiles for emphasizing the horizontal lines.  For sustainability reasons, the glass sections were interspersed with solid panels.

The philosophy of the ‘open house’ is translated in the open character of the glazed volume. This ‘open feel’ is further extended by the interior decoration, in which the communication between the visitors and the personnel stands at the centre. The reception desk is interpreted as a customer-friendly, multi-functional piece of furniture and is located centrally when entering. An art project by Wesley Meuris has been integrated behind the reception desk.

“Colour accents on the various floors ensure proper clarity of the building.”

The visitor is invited to explore the fully accessible building.

The making of… movie



Completed in 2014

Floor area
7.460 m²

Cooperation form
Classical conception project

Picture and photography
Klaas Verdru

Public projects

Client: vzw Het Portaal
Architect: B2Ai
Interior architect: B2Ai
Stability: Stedec
Contractor: Coussée-Bostoen

Awards and nominations
Fireforum awards 2012 – Nominated
Schrijnwerk awards  2012 – laureate category aluminium
Benelux Aluminium Awards 2013 – laureate
European Aluminium Award 2014 – Nominated