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Work starts on Bruges’ ‘plain but functional’ convention centre

Anyone who has walked the cobbled streets of Bruges may balk at the idea of a convention centre being built in the city’s historic centre – but that idea is now a reality.

The picturesque Belgian city, famed for its canals and medievel buildings, has set aside €40m for the ‘modest-looking’ venue, which is expected to open at the end of 2021.

A team, composed of an architect, developer and contractor, has been given a full design and build brief while the city council opted to keep the management of the venue in-house.

Builders moved on site this week.

Burgomaster Dirk De fauw said: “The facilities will be top-notch, which will allow us to position Bruges as a top destination for conferences. This will also benefit the tourism industry.”

Alderman of Tourism, Philip Pierins, said “The design of the winning team shows respect for the city in that it allows Bruges to remain true to itself. The architecture is plain but very functional, supporting the needs of the users.”

The outside walls will be built with reclaimed bricks, which will give the building a typical Bruges look. The catering room on the top floor will offer magnificent views of the city centre.

The trade fair section will measure 4,500sqm. The roof construction ensures ample direct daylight, creating pleasant natural lighting conditions in the hall.

Glass sliding doors on three sides of the building can be opened up to their full width. The conference section has a capacity for up to 500 visitors.

The ‘three chairs’-principle will be applied, which means that every visitor will have a chair in the plenary hall, one in the catering area and one in the break-out rooms.

©Meta architectuurbureau

A plenary hall with 500 retractable seats, a large foyer, poster areas, eight modular break-out rooms and a catering area on the top floor offering magnificent views of the city.

Meeting in Brugge’s sales manager, Sarah Cornand, said: “The location of this state-of-the-art building, in the very heart of a Unesco World Heritage City and within walking distance from all central hotels, restaurants and attractions, is a unique selling point. The ingenious architecture ensures a smooth logistical flow, even when several events take place simultaneously.”