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Reading Room for Special Collections

Lines and Colours

‘In addition to the line, colour is van de Velde’s second aesthetic medium’, a critic noted as early as 1900. This reading rooms proves this statement.

Before van de Velde entered the field of architecture and design, he was a painter. His past as a painter has played an important role in his mastery of colours. Take a look at the floor of the Reading Room for Special Collections. Van de Velde had already applied the harmonious use of two colour tones, edged with (black) bands, as a principle in his earlier work, for instance in the sanatorium he designed before the First World War. That was in a more flamboyant Art Nouveau style. Here it fits into a tighter rhythmic design. Incidentally, the ceramic tiles come from Welkenraedt; because of the war, only Belgian materials could be used for the interior finishing.

The beauty of this reading room has only recently been discovered. For a long time this room was split into two and used as a depot, where especially the maps and precious prints were kept. The beautiful floor was covered with library furniture and towering bookshelves. The restoration of Robbrecht and Daem architects has transformed the two depots into one reading room.

In the far corners of this reading room, as if in mirror image, there are two offices: they were intended for the curator of the former Reading Room for Maps and former Reserve Room.

  • Reading Room for Special Collections

    By Geert Roels, 2021, license CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0

  • Reading Room for Special Collections (side former Reserve Room)

    By Michiel Hendryckx, 2021, license CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0

  • Reading Room for Special Collections, 2021

    By Michiel Hendryckx, license CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0


The old Map Room

In addition to the ‘large reading room’ – the current Study Area – the Boekentoren used to have four thematic reading rooms: for journals, for manuscripts, for precious prints and for maps. Until the restoration of the Boekentoren, this Reading Room for Special Collections was occupied for the most part by the old Map Room.

The ‘Maps’ section was broadly understood: prints, posters, graphics and iconography were kept and consulted here, in addition to geographical maps and globes. Much of what could be considered the Boekentoren’s art collection was located here.

Since the restoration of the Boekentoren, the Map Room has been closed and the collection is housed in the new Underground Depot.

Old Maps Room, 2001

By Benn Deceuninck

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