50 – Walking Tour to discover the Université libre de Bruxelles

The Université libre de Bruxelles, the main university in the Brussels-Capital Region and in the French-speaking Community, welcomes, in addition to its staff, nearly 40,000 students who live in the city and bring it to life.

This People and their Environments guide takes you on a journey of discovery of the history of this institution, its four main sites in Brussels and its impact on the urban economy and landscape.

The first part of the guide, which sets the scene for the institution, is devoted to the place of the ULB in the Belgian capital and to the evolution of the university since its creation in the 1830s by the liberal Brussels bourgeoisie in response to the (re)creation of the University of Leuven by the Catholics. In this part of the guide, the reader will also discover several aspects of student life, from the pedagogical functioning of the institution to the more folkloric aspects of baptisms and other typically Brussels celebrations, such as St. Verhaegen’s Day, as well as the stages of the struggle for full female participation in university life.

Following this general approach to the university, the second part of the guide takes you on a tour of its many buildings and sites, with illustrated and commented stops.

The itinerary begins at the original site of the Université libre de Belgique, which was to become the Université libre de Bruxelles shortly afterwards, at Place du Musée, next to Place Royale. It then takes you to the Solbosch site, to discover the most symbolic of the three Brussels locations of the ULB, which is just celebrating its centenary. Passing through the university district of the Ixelles cemetery, the itinerary guides you to the Plaine campus, a green space but … a relative town planning failure! Through the site of the VUB, the Dutch-speaking sister university, it reaches U-Square, a new location where these two institutions are asserting together their involvement in the sustainable economic and social development of the city. Next comes Leopold Park, where we discover the Science City project, which was born at the end of the 19th century in response to the experimental developments required by the rise of positivist science at the time. The route ends at Erasmus, which houses the University’s health campus, at Anderlecht, on the edge of the Brussels Region.

The many buildings of the ULB, which were developed as the university grew, illustrate various architectural styles, from the Flemish neo-renaissance style of the building of the former Faculties of Philosophy and Arts and Law to the functional architecture of the H-building, via Art Deco, not forgetting the contemporary architectural forms of the Solbosch library and the large medical auditorium in Anderlecht.

This guide is published almost 20 years after its first edition, in 2004. A comparison of the two editions allows us to measure the progress made during this time, despite the rigours imposed on the financing of higher education in the French Community.

Contents of this guide

A University in a capital – A relatively recent, large urban University – The University and the urban economy – Openness to Wallonia
A free enquiry University – The origins of the University – The principle of free enquiry – From the end of the 19th century to 1968: a time of change, in step with the secular world and society – The functioning of the University
The University population – Growth of the university population in the face of a reduction in resources – Disciplinary orientations – Women at the University – The student catchment area – The student societies- Students in the city

The Walking Tour

1. Birth of the University: Place du Musée – 2. Avenue Roosevelt, the Solbosch site and the International Exposition of 1910 – 3. Patronage by progressive employers in the 19th century and early 20th century:
the monument to Ernest Solvay – 4. The rise of courses in human, economic and management sciences – 5. Masonic heritage: the monument gifted by the Lodge of Les Amis Philanthropes – 6. Predominance of the Beaux-Arts style in private buildings in
the first part of Avenue Roosevelt – 7. Prestige of the University and promotion of national identity after the end of the First World War: building A – 8. The Blomme building – 9. Openness to Europe-10. The Square Servais and building U: architectural functionalism forscientific courses – 11. Building D, the former Institute of Physics – 12. The University and the Resistance: the Square Groupe G – 13. A new model for access to information: the Human Sciences Library – 14. The heart of university life: the Paul Héger avenue and student residence – 15. The constraints of motor transport: the big car park – 16. The former Institute of Physical Education – 17. The Institute of Sociology – 18. Building K and the sports hall – 19. The University embraces Fordist development: Civil Construction building C – 20. The ulb-vub Computing Centre – 21. University expansion and insufficient investment credits
for Universities: prefabs – 22. Presses Universitaires de Bruxelles (pub) – 23. The University’s impact on its neighbourhood – 24. Urban planning decisions of the ‘70s: the Plaine campus – 25. Shortcomings of the treatment of collective areas and student density on the Plaine campus – 26. Collaboration with vub and creation of a polytechnic cluster on the Plaine campus – 27. The vub campus – 28. The barracks of the old Gendarmerie school and the Usquare project – 29. Leopold Park and the Cité de la Science project – 30. The Érasme campus and the university hospital – 31. The Faculty of Medicine and Museum of Medicine – 32. Extensions of the Érasme campus


with the collaboration, de Margot ELMER, Joël GIRES, Michel HUART, Pablo MEDINA LOCKHART and Benjamin WAYENS

Walking Tour to discover the Université libre de Bruxelles

Paru en 2022 – ISBN : 978-2-9602740-4-2 (EN)

Recommended salesprice : 12 euros

Available in quality bookshops or purchasable on our webshop online.