The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Bram Kerkhofs

Bram Kerkhofs

Furniture and interior designer, Bram Kerkhofs Design Studio / Co-founder, Batiment A / Teacher, LUCA (1977)

Can you describe what you do?

As a designer, I mainly focus on two things: creating furniture and objects, as well as shaping spaces – both in- and outdoors. The keyword for all of my activities and work is connection – a remnant from my training as a goldsmith. My studio is based in Batiment A, a creative collective space in the centre of Leuven, where I’ve encountered like-minded soul-mates, friends, and colleagues – sounding boards and plenty of inspiration. One of its key strengths is its heterogeneous composition of disciplines, which provides an invigorating synergy. Besides this, I’m a teacher at the art school LUCA where I’m based in the Interior Design department, and am also currently working on a research project.

Leuven is a perfect breeding ground for companies, entrepreneurs, investors and talent and concepts such as Leuven MindGate are sure to power up the city in the near future.

How do you perceive Leuven?

I chose Leuven as my hometown because it’s a small, prosperous and comfortable city. Although I do like the roughness of larger cities like Brussels, it always feels good to come home again. It’s really rewarding to watch my three sons grow up here. We live near the old Philips site, with an abbey, swimming pool, skate park and plenty of green spaces in the neighbourhood. Recently the City of Leuven created Leuven MindGate, an organisation intended to promote collaborations between Leuven-based companies found at the crossroads of health, high-tech and creativity. Fact is, Leuven is a perfect breeding ground for companies, entrepreneurs, investors and talent and concepts such as Leuven MindGate are sure to power up the city in the near future.

What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

Its small-scale in its connection to people: sometimes referred to as “the Leuven Model”, everyone knows each other, and it’s easy to find the necessary match in order to come to better results or get things done. Over the last few years, the creative vibe in Leuven experienced significant growth: the City realised that they had to invest in it, by creating opportunities and making this vibe more apparent. It’s an on-going process, of which I have high hopes for. Besides this, I approve of the City’s ambitious prioritisation of its education, creativity, ecology, social balance, innovation and quality of life.

How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

My paternal grandparents lived in the city, close to Sint-Jacobs Church. My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in Heverlee. So having grown up in a village just outside of Leuven, the big city attracted me from a very young age. I wanted to understand its language and behaviours, to know how I could find my own place in it. Step by step, I’m getting closer to what I believe to be my predestined role.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

I hope Leuven manages to maintain enough open spaces and has the initiative and guts to make carefully-considered urban choices for the future. Another thing missing is a ground base for an artistic scene, whereby Leuven can become attractive for gallerists, collectors and people and, above all, bring a new colour to the city.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Leuven?

You can’t visit Leuven without making a stop at M-Museum. It completely re-thought and renewed the presentation of their collection, and I especially like their concept of making a museum for and from everyone. Besides that, they’ve implemented some of the most innovative techniques to personalise your visit, which to me reinforces the city’s commitment to innovation.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

The old City Hall was built in the first half of the 15th century. Four centuries later in the mid-19th century, officials sculpted the 236 statues and placed them into their niches, after Victor Hugo pointed out its obvious lack of iconography. I think it’s a good metaphor for making well-thought out decisions for the future, although this story says so much more than that.