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.

Laura Wielockx and Barbra Daemen

Laura Wielockx and Barbra Daemen

Co-owners, PLEK (1985 and 1982)

Can you describe what you do?

We own and run PLEK, a concept store where the idea of “home” is central. PLEK is a three-in-one concept consisting of an interior shop, coffee bar and DIY corner all under one same roof. The principle being that everything you see, you can buy. We sell interior furniture and accessories from local artisans, but we also sell some major brands. In our bar, you can enjoy specialty coffee from the Antwerp-based roastery Caffènation, as well as sip on wine or our homemade lemonades. Besides all this, we also organise creative DIY workshops. Our shop is based on Mechelsestraat, just outside the commercial centre. It’s an upcoming neighbourhood, where we’re not the only entrepreneurs starting up their business. This street connects the centre with the Vaartkom, a district around the canal waters where culture and creativity are taking an increasingly important role.

How do you perceive Leuven?

Leuven is pretty big for a university city but without it, it would just be a small village. Everybody’s connected in some way shape or form, and its common to meet the same people everywhere. In the local social and cultural scenes, you could say that similar divisions are taking place. On the one hand, you have the more accessible commercial shops and activities. But on the other hand, we’re now witnessing a new generation of young entrepreneurs, looking to organise more alternative events. The City is, next to healthcare and technology, also focusing on creativity and we can only hope that this will continue to expand well into the future. Leuven has a very vibrant and extensive cultural scene but we do still feel that there’s space for more alternative scenes as well as nightlife venues.

We need to think of how we can support and further cultivate such innovation and entrepreneurialism by, for instance, creating smaller, local venues or lowering taxes.

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

It’s a historical city. We have a magnificent Town Hall, plenty of beautiful churches as well as ancient buildings. Back in the day, there was the Silo, an underground techno club, where a lot of local and international DJs would play. Unfortunately, the club was closed down by the City, which we personally feel was a massive blow to Leuven’s edginess. But not all hope is lost, as thanks to some lovely initiatives set up by young people, a new batch of events having been springing up around the City. We need to think of how we can support and further cultivate such innovation and entrepreneurialism by, for instance, creating smaller, local venues or lowering taxes.

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

A difficult question! Growing up in Leuven meant growing up in a very secure and friendly environment – we have great schools and excellent level of education here. So we guess Leuven was – and still is – a good base from where to start exploring “the big world” with plenty of confidence. Leuven’s a small town that still doesn’t have that many concept stores under its belt, so we felt the urge to open our little concept store in the city centre and bring a little piece of that big world to Leuven.

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

Starting the day with a breakfast on Dagelijks Brood’s terrace on Parijsstraat and watch people opening their shops. Afterwards, grabbing some lunch from the local market and taking a stroll to Sluispark in the Vaartkom neighbourhood to relax and picnic. Grabbing an ice cream from Matadi, a boat-cum-ice-cream bar on the Vaart canal and, after that, walking back through Mechelsestraat for some windown shopping. In the afternoon, M-Museum is definitely worth a visit, followed by an apéro on their rooftop terrace. Next, I’d do dinner at Merkat, a great tapas bar owned and run by a very young chef and his girlfriend. The grand finale of the first day must be with a few beers at one of the many pubs around the Oude Markt. On Sundays, taking walks through various parks and historical buildings in the city, as well as a visit to STUK and high tea at Nosh, should round the weekend up just perfectly.