The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Hans Le Compte

Hans Le Compte

Furniture Design training coordinator at Thomas More (1961)

Can you describe what you do?

I am a training coordinator of the postgraduate Furniture Design at the Thomas More University College. Aside from that, I am also active as an architect and designer. In my spare time, I enjoy playing music, as it is my main creative outlet and helps me relax.

I live and work in a renovated town house, originally built in 1913. I commute by bike between my home office and my workplace at the campus Lucas Faydherbe,which used to be the location for fruit and vegetable halls on the Zandpoortvest.

My work is focused on interaction: coaching students, setting up projects with fellow teachers and business partners, organising excursions and meetings on construction sites. For my architectural projects, I work together with my partner and external associates. Occasionally, I also take part in creative projects with the collective “han snin ariacas per”, also known as my family, which I also thrive in doing.

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Mechelen is my home base, it really is a dynamic and ever-growing provincial city with plenty of ambition. It is multicultural, but not too metropolitan. There are plenty of open spaces, even in the centre, and the wonderful nature areas on the westside. We also have many schools and a university college, but the city is not too packed with students, like Leuven for example.

Mechelen has become attractive for young families, which brings with it a growing number of proud and engaged citizens. Participation within the local community is encouraged by the city council, and it offers opportunities to everyone who want to express themselves. Collaboration between the different organisations and institutions in the city is being promoted. All of this results in an inspiring vibe.

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

Mechelen has become a beautiful and clean city but still holds onto and respects its rich and diverse past. This historical context offers a lot of opportunities to build on, as well as many stories to tell. Of course, the central location of the city, between Brussels and Antwerp, is a permanent asset.

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

I went to school at the Sint-Rombouts-College and did my musical training at the conservatory. Starting out in architecture and as a teacher, I moved from Bonheiden to Mechelen in the early 90s. At the university college, I was able to start up the postgraduate Furniture Design together with a committed team. We were able to create a new and modern dimension to Mechelen’s historical past as a furniture city.

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

Mechelen must continue to work on its international appeal and attraction. We have to present ourselves as the alternative to larger cities like Antwerp and Brussels, with specialty stores instead of the larger retail chains. We need to continue paying attention to and support local arts and crafts.

As far as the city’s architecture is concerned, we have to restore even more historical buildings, combined with good new architectural interventions.

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

I would take visitors for a weekend-long bike ride to discover all aspects of Mechelen: from the underground extension of Museum Hof van Busleyden to the top of the St. Rumbold’s Tower. Along the ride, we’d pass the workshops of the Belgian Railways and brewery Het Anker, over the many picturesque city paths, through the parks and nature reserves, and finally along the banks of the Dyle river to end the tour at Zennegat.

Can you talk to us about a local legend, a neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

The tower of St. Rumbold was destined to become the highest gothic tower in Europe, but it was never finished. Nevertheless, it symbolises Mechelen’s ambitious attitude and innovative streak. The tower features no less than two carillons and the world’s largest skeleton dial.

The carillon plays a melody every seven and a half minutes, the so-called ‘Mechelen’s halfket’. This is a unique tardition that helps the Mechlinians keep track of time. Still, the citizens of Mechelen have a legendary reputation of always arriving too late, at ‘the Mechelen hour’.