‘Campus Drie Eiken goes live 24/7’

A sports hall, a new restaurant, more student rooms and studios: all the result of a collaboration between Xior Student Housing, LIFE and UAntwerp, which will make Campus Drie Eiken a vibrant place. The permit is in, construction will start in December 2022, and in two years the campus will have a new vibrant heart.

The University of Antwerp has already invested heavily in Campus Drie Eiken in Wilrijk over the past few years. Two new buildings containing mostly classrooms were constructed, research laboratories were renovated, the large lecture hall on campus was given a new look, and research centre Vaccinopolis came into being. In terms of teaching and research infrastructure, the campus – home to some 10,000 students, researchers and staff – is still in good shape.

But a campus needs more. ‘Student restaurant Komida is bursting at the seams, we lack decent sports infrastructure, and the 1970s student rooms are in dire need of renovation’, Rector Herman Van Goethem explains. ‘The campus also lacks a centre – a vibrant heart.’

Student rooms at social rent

Students, faculties and central services formed a working group to tackle the question of which facilities should be added to the campus. UAntwerp then looked for an external partner who could develop the campus on a long-term lease. ‘As an explicit condition, we included that at least 120 student rooms need to be offered at social rent’, Bart Heijnen, UAntwerp’s Director General, clarifies.

That external partner became project developer LIFE, which then partnered with Xior as a long-term investor, owner and operator. Together with POLO Architects, LIFE and Xior drew up the plans. These are all located on what is currently known as car park 3. Building on this car park will centralise the new facilities inside the campus and strengthen the campus heart. The three buildings form a composition of simple volumes, which collectively create a lively square in between them.

Decisively climate-adaptive

There will be a tower with student rooms, a low-rise building that will house student rooms, a large bicycle parking area and space for smaller commercial activities, and a large building that will serve as a sports hall and a student restaurant with 400 extra dining places for students. As an added value to sports enthusiasts from Wilrijk and the surrounding area: the sports hall will also be open to outsiders.

UAntwerp is realising its goal to become more sustainable and energy efficient by decisively choosing for climate-adaptive construction. The new buildings are deliberately being placed entirely on an existing car park so that green space surrounding the area is not lost. The few trees that really could not be saved will be compensated by planting new trees elsewhere on campus.

Textbook example of campus development

‘We are extremely happy to finally be able to start the works. For us, the cooperation with UAntwerp and the enthusiasm of all stakeholders involved is a very good example of how the public and private sectors can strengthen each other. The result will be a textbook example of campus development and will have a major positive impact on the daily experience of thousands of students and staff at the university’, Toon Haverals, Managing Partner of LIFE.be, says.

Jiri Nagels, Country Manager Belgium of Xior Student Housing: ‘We look forward to being able to give around 200 students a second home. The student rooms will meet the requirements of today’s student and we are happy to do our bit to make Campus Drie Eiken a vibrant campus.’

Spatial vision for the future

The student housing and sports hall project is part of a wider task for the entire campus. UAntwerp is working on a strategic spatial vision for the future, guiding its infrastructure policies and initiating pilot projects, while at the same time being sufficiently open to adapt to future developments or opportunities. By intensely cooperating with urban planners from POLO and landscape architects from Felixx, a course for the future has been set. Today, the first steps are being taken along this course, which build on the campus’ unique green identity.

Preparatory works will start in December. Contractor Cordeel will keep the academic calendar in mind during construction: noise will be limited during examination periods. By the end of 2024, the project should be finalised. ‘Campus Drie Eiken will then have a vibrant heart and be a campus that is alive 24/7’, Rector Van Goethem concludes.

Sports hall and more student housing for a vibrant campus

Sports hall and more student housing for a vibrant campus

UAntwerp to give parts of Campus Drie Eiken to LIFE on long-term lease​ Campus Drie Eiken

A sports hall, a new restaurant and more student housing: all these ingredients promise to turn Campus Drie Eiken into a more vibrant place. Project developer LIFE will oversee the campus development and manage some zones on a long-term lease.

The University of Antwerp has been investing heavily in Campus Drie Eiken in Wilrijk in recent years. Two new buildings have been erected, mainly with classrooms, and the research labs in existing buildings have been fully renovated. The large auditorium on the campus will also be getting a facelift soon.

"These investments were absolutely essential," explains Rector Herman Van Goethem. "The campus is home to about 10,000 students, researchers and staff. The number of 'residents' has increased in the last few years. In terms of education and research infrastructure, we're in good shape today, but a campus needs more than that. The student restaurant, komida, is bursting at the seams, Rehabilitation Sciences students have to move between locations for their sports classes, and the student homes need freshening up too."

Affordable student room

Campus Drie Eiken also lacks a real centre, a 'heart'. A working group consisting of students, faculties and university-wide services was put together to discuss the needs of the campus. "It was important to us that all users of the campus were involved," says the university’s director general Bart Heijnen. "We then set out to find an external partner who could develop the campus through a leasehold arrangement. As an explicit condition, we stipulated that at least 120 student rooms must be offered for 270 euros per month."

Project developer LIFE's proposal was selected by the university as the best fit. LIFE has extensive experience in campus development, including past collaborations with universities and colleges in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. The development is part of the newly launched XL Fund, which is a collaboration between Xior Student Housing NV (90%) and LIFE (10%).

"Our primary aim is to densify the heart of the campus, creating the facilities necessary to revive it, while preserving the valuable green surroundings." The focus is on developing more on-campus student housing and a new sports and leisure centre, creating a vibrant atmosphere that continues even when lessons are over. The student restaurant, komida, will be renovated and expanded to create more of room for students and staff to eat, meet and study.

Campus Drie Eiken    Campus Drie Eiken

Focus on students
As a creative developer, LIFE puts people at the heart of every development and is committed to differentiation, soul and character. "We are all about increasing quality of life through a life-cycle cost approach, centred on sustainable use of energy, materials and space," explains Toon Haverals, CEO of LIFE.be. "We pay specific attention to identity, which is a very important concept for young people in full development – not only intellectually, but especially in their search for meaning and their place in life. We will be offering many different types of student housing, so there will be something for everyone."

There will also be room for ad-hoc student initiatives. "Creating a campus is an organic process, and we want to challenge the students to create their own campus as part of a kind of co-creation model. Various initiatives, such as student events, pop-up bars, food trucks and vegetable gardens will foster activation and contact, but also create connection, entrepreneurship and involvement. All of this will result in an attractive, high-quality public space," says Toon Haverals.

Campus Drie Eiken    Campus Drie Eiken

New campus in 2023
The permit application for the project will be filed at the end of this year, so construction can start in 2021. If all goes according to plan, the first students will be welcomed to the new student residences in academic year 2022-2023.

By then, it is hoped that there will also be a plan on the table for better public transport links, in cooperation with Antwerp city council and De Lijn, which will make the campus more accessible.

By focusing on an attractive ‘Campus 2.0’ for and by students, the University of Antwerp is gearing up for strong further growth in the coming decades. 

Campus Drie Eiken