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.

Stéphane Berghmans

Stéphane Berghmans

CEO of Technopolis (1966)

Can you describe what you do?

Although I do not live in Mechelen myself, I am the CEO of Technopolis, a Flemish science/educational centre with a permanent interactive exhibition. We are based in Mechelen Zuid, right next to the exit of the E19. It is one of the major tourist attractions in Mechelen and a prime destination for families and schools. Our employees are all passionate about science education and have very diverse backgrounds.

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 has a very young feel to it. A lot has been done to renovate the city centre and the result is beautiful. Culturally, there is a lot going on, we have the St. Rumbolds Tower and several wonderful museums. Especially when compared to other cities of similar size, it is noticeable that it has a rich historical past.

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

Mechelen has truly reinvented itself over the past few years, and I feel there is a lot of potential for the city to continue growing. In addition, there is also a remarkable cultural diversity amongst the inhabitants.

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

Technopolis has been based in Mechelen ever since it opened its doors in 2000, and for our institution this central location is very strategic to attract tourists and visitors from all over Flanders and Belgium. In my opinion, the city itself is enthusiastic to continue our great collaboration.

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

I feel like Mechelen’s council could do more to technologically transform and develop the city, like we see happening in other small-sized and wide-scale cities all over Europe, and the world. Since the city is not too big, new and innovative technologies could easily be tested here. For instance, Mechelen would be an ideal testing ground for self-driving cars!

If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what/where would it be?

Definitely the St. Rumbold’s Tower. If you have kids, you must take them to Planckendael, the Toy Museum (one of the biggest collections in Europe) and of course our very own Technopolis.

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

I don’t know a lot about the history of the city, but there is one story that reveals a lot about the technological past of the city. The first railway connection on the continent was in Belgium, a 22 km long track between Brussels and Mechelen. The first train ride happened on May 5 1835.