The Ursuline Convent

The renovation of the 18th-century mansion the generalate and the Ursuline convent in the city center of Hasselt is the final part of the ‘Ursulinhof’ urban renewal project. The historic site next to the ‘Groenplein’ was managed and expanded by the Ursuline Sisters from 1879 onwards. There, they taught thousands of pupils in a large school building and lived and worked from their own convent en generalate. After the school moved to a new location in 2019, a master plan was drawn up to give the site a new life. The school was demolished, the listed buildings retained, but the later additions were removed.

The block was opened via a large public thoroughfare and the new functions are organized around green courtyards. The convent en generalate were incorporated into the new whole, the remaining convent for the order. The Ursuline Sisters thus remain part of the city centre and the urban community. The facades of the generalate have been restored and the interiors restored and adapted to today’s standards. A balance was sought between the restoration and recovery of authentic values on the one hand and appropriate additions on the other.

The generalate itself serves as the Ursuline Sisters’ administrative building. The authentic elements in the interior, such as staircases, doors, ornaments, and fireplaces were retained. The oak doors were stripped of their soiled varnish; the sandblasted wood remains visible and gives a robust and authentic look. The floors have been waxed, but the years of use are still visible.

The work and meeting rooms were fitted with new office furniture, conference tables, and a library, but the historical furniture was also given a new place in the whole after renovation. The connection between old and new lies in the use of oak. The new furniture is lighter in colour and soberer in design, but the detailing refers to the historical objects. The furniture fabrics, window decorations, and paintwork are light in colour so that the rooms are bathed in light but still feel warm.

The convent was extended with a new chapel, a sanctuary in the busy city centre. The slender volume is crowned with a pointed gable roof that matches the city’s historic buildings in scale and shape. The structure of the building consists of exposed concrete and wood, while the facades and roof are clad in brick. The daylight in the chapel enters the space from above through a cut in the roof. There is no direct view to the outside, giving the interior space a sacred atmosphere.