Leuven Bioscience

A vertical connector

The University of Leuven wishes is realizing a new building on its Arenberg III campus in Heverlee for the Department of Biology and the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), called Leuven Bioscience.

After an intensive design competition, the integral design assignment was entrusted to the consortium consisting of Proof of the sum, SVR-ARCHITECTS, Exilab and Studieburo De Klerck. Proof and SVR are responsible for the architectural design. Exilab brings its expertise in field techniques and building physics. De Klerck is involved in the design as structural engineer.

A beacon as an opportunity
The Leuven Bioscience project is located on the Arenberg III campus as part of the Arenberg Castle Park. The intensive building program, combined with the available building plot, leads to a high-rise volume. Together with the existing height accents of the Imec tower, the Arenberg castle and the intended high-rise accents in the master plan of the Arenberg Science Park, Leuven Bioscience can both become a beacon for the Arenberg III campus and become part of the geographical positioning of the complete science cluster in the area.

Create public square
For campus Arenberg III, an urban development strategy has been developed that departs from the principle of densification. Within the ring road, building fields with higher density alternate with a playful mix of streets and squares. The realization of Leuven Bioscience fits perfectly in this strategy of compaction. An intensive building volume, together with the ‘Quadrivium’ and ‘Leuven Chem & Tech’ buildings, will create a new generous public square. Due to the characteristic bend in the rational beam-shaped volume, a sheltered logistics square for Leuven Bioscience is created on the traffic-calmed north side.

Benefitting the high-rise
The starting point of high-rise buildings is maximized by positioning one clear beam-shaped high-rise volume in the landscape. This leads to a map in which the balance between rising points, disentanglement of flows, façade orientation and the logistics order come together as one efficient whole

Orchestrating flows
The kinked bar allows to orchestrate the various flows in a natural way. The users of the building reach the main entrance at level +1 via a naturally rising landscape. The large amount of cyclists remain at street level. The daily logistics reach Leuven Bioscience through a new link with Leuven Chem & Tech at street level. One level higher, on the other side, is discretely reached by the logistics court along Leuven Nanocentre. A clear separation between flows of goods and people is also made within the building. This allows the research processes to take place undisturbed.

Knowledge sharing is central along one social axis
From expertise and research it is known that organizational and spatial design forms a symbiotic breeding ground for innovation. That is why Leuven Bioscience is designed from one single heart. The central vertical spine in the armpit of the kinked shape becomes the nerve path for knowledge sharing and interaction. Ultimately this connects all users of the new research building.

Programmatic ordering
The building has one universal grid where all functions of the 27,000 m2 building volume can be fitted. This underlines the ultimate flexibility of the design concept shown: almost the entire program can be programmed virtually anywhere in the building. This is also necessary in order to be able to continue answering the unknown research question in the future, but also to postpone decision-making about the definitive layout of the building as long as possible.

A facade with comfort
In addition to urban planning and logistic motives, the kinked bar also allows a logical response to the orientation. The bent shape maximizes the non-sun-exposed north facade and reduces the sun-exposed south facade. The climatically difficult to control east and west façades are minimized due to the strong solar load at beginning and end of a day. On the basis of an extensive study of temperature overruns and an investigation into possibilities for heat-cold-storage, a façade concept was presented in which a pleasant indoor climate can be realized with simple solutions.

Fossil free
One of the most important utilities, if not the most important in a laboratory, is ventilation. The principle for ventilation is based on a total system for all laboratories in the building and a separate system for the general rooms at the bottom of the building. The floors with the general laboratories are not technically split up into different zones, floors or the like, but are served by an installation that supplies all the floors with air. The air handling units distribute their air via a joint air duct system to the different floors and laboratories according to the “ring concept”. The generation of energy is completely fossil-free. In addition, extensive research was done into source systems at campus level, the possibilities of riothermia and the chance to use water of the Dijle-river as cooling.

Key drivers

  • knowledge sharing
  • High-rise
  • Flexibility & Efficiency


  • Architectural design
  • Interior design


  • Client: KU Leuven
  • Users: KU Leuven & VIB
  • Team: Roy Pype, Perdro Arroyo Garcia, Linda Cappetijn, Celine Dorval, Ece Eren, Angelique Haver, Gosia Machaj, Joana Marques, Natalia Sulkowska, Annemieke van den Brink, Eerde van Leeuwen, Alvaro Saez O'Farrell, Nora Zechmeister, Ovidija Zemaityte
  • Consultants: SVR-ARCHITECTS, Exilab, Studieburo De Klerck
  • Visualization: Proof of the sum
  • Model: Made by Mistake
  • Photography: Marcel van der Burg, Proof of the sum