When the very first Stella Artois beer was produced back in 1926, hardly anyone could assume that this brand will become one of the most widely recognised symbols of the Belgian town Leuven. Today available in almost every European pub, Stella Artois is an emblem of a century-long brewing tradition in Belgium, while the very building in which it was first produced still stands as a monument to its history.
Built in 1923, De Hoorn brewery is one of the industrial landmarks in the city that represents the brewing centre of the Flemish Region in Belgium. After its the production moved to new facilities in 1980’s, however, the old edifice that gave the world Stella Artois stood abandoned for years. It was not until 2013 that the brewery would be recreated as a creative hub in an innovative project launched by local cultural and creative entrepreneurs. Developed with the guidance from Flemish Agency for Monuments and Sites, the Conversion of De Hoorn brewery into a creative hub project revived this industrial heritage site of Leuven.
The project blended past and present in an effort to preserve this unique heritage site, while providing local communities with a new space for cultural activities. As such, it has been recognised as of the most remarkable heritage preservation projects in Europe and was awarded with the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2016.
This prestigious recognition highlighted community effort behind Conversion of De Hoorn brewery into a creative hub. Focused on protecting the industrial pearl of Leuven and preserving it for future generations, the project helped raise awareness of the values of cultural heritage and enhance it to fit the modern lifestyle.
On 11th September 2016, the creative minds behind the project gathered at the brewery to receive the Europa Nostra Award and celebrate this exciting occasion with a number of culture and heritage professionals. With the date of the ceremony overlapping with European Heritage Days in Belgium-Flanders, the ceremony helped expand the spirit of the festival and celebrate this year’s Heritage Communities theme. In relation to this synergy, Head of Unit of the EU Creative Europe programme Karel Bartak expressed his joy about Conversion of De Hoorn brewery into a creative hub being the part of European Heritage Days:
“Isn't it wonderful that we are, without any legislation, without any heavy administrative procedures and political decisions, able to offer this fantastic wealth of our common past to the widest public? It is great that the De Hoorn brewery is a part of this wonderful mosaic.”
The idea of recreating a historic heritage site into a modern environments where past and present interrelate is an effort that deserves attention of the entire Europe. Conversion of De Hoorn brewery into a creative hub is a perfect example of how local communities can actively contribute to protecting historic landmarks around them and promoting their local traditions. As such, the project represents a remarkable initiative whose results will help preserve past traditions for the benefit of present and future generations.
(c) Bart Van Der Perren