Belval through the ages
Come with us on a journey through the decades. The timeline below will tell you things you don’t know – and some things you do – about Belval old and new. Click on a year to see the next stage in its development, from the legendary forest, to the state-of-the-art industrial site, to the modern place to work and live today you see today.
C. 1850: The local recreation area between Belvaux and Esch is not only popular; it is also extremely mysterious. Fairy tales are told of the forest that links the two residential areas and is called either “Escher Bësch” or the forest of “Claire Chêne”.
The lawyer Joseph Steichen discovers a mineral spring of exceptional quality in Belval. The water becomes famous for its healing properties, and is bottled and marketed commercially from 1893. It enjoys great popularity in Belgium and the Netherlands as well as the Grand-Duchy, and achieves record sales of over 30,000 bottles in the first year.
The Escher Bësch forest is cleared to make way for one of the most modern steelworks of the time. From the ore dressing to the finished end product – with blast furnaces, steelworks and rolling mill, the plant carries out every stage in the production of steel. In 1913, more than 3000 steelworkers produce 400,000 tonnes of cast iron, 360,000 tonnes of steel and 297,000 of rolled products.
On 30 April Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Community, performed the symbolic tapping of the first European blast furnace for Montanunion in Belval.
The steelworks was completely refurbished and modernised; the work is completed in 1979. The six old blast furnaces are torn down and replaced by three new ones with even higher production capacities.
The three blast furnaces are gradually shut down. They are replaced by an electric furnace that is fed with scrap metal rather than iron ore.
One of the last three blast furnaces is sold to the Chinese Kisco steel group. Over five months, 240 Chinese labourers dismantle the more than 10,000 tons of steel and number and wrap every single piece; 20 months later, the colossus is reconstructed at its new site in Kunming in the province of Yunnan.
The era of iron production in Belval-Ouest draws to a close. The only remaining functional blast furnace is shut down with a symbolic final tapping. Discussions start concerning possible future uses of the approx. 120 hectare site.
The state of Luxembourg and the Arbed steel group (now ArecelorMittal) set up the Agora development company together. They are to plan and build a modern, lively city quarter on the decommissioned Belval industrial site.
Together with the Ministry of the Interior, Agora calls an urban development competition for the construction of a master plan as the foundation for all further development of the new city quarter. It is won by Jo Coenen & Co. of Maastricht (now represented by the Mars offices) and the landscape designers Lubber of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (now represented by the Elyps offices).
Foundation of the Fonds Belval. As a public office, its role is as the “City of science, research and innovation”, in other words, the implementation of the state investment programme in Belval.
In June, over 10,000 people take part in the Steel Works Festival in Belval. The performers include Nina Hagen and the band Indochine.
Opening of the Rockhal, Luxemburg’s biggest concert hall.
The relocation of the “Gabriel Lippmann” research centre sees the arrival of the first scientists in Belval.
The industrial area had not been open to the public for almost 100 years – and now some 1000 visitors attend the official reopening of Belval. Belval’s new landmark, the red bank building of Dexia (now BIL), opens at the end of 2006. 1400 members of staff of RBC Dexia Investor Service (now RBC Investor Services) move into the first section of the building.
The old blasting hall is the venue for the “All we need” exhibition, part of the programme for the European Capital of Culture year of Luxemburg and the greater region.
Opening of Belvalplaza I, the multifunction centre with apartments, a shopping mall, cafés, restaurants and a multiplex cinema with 1500 seats. Thousands of visitors take the opportunity to be there on the opening day – despite having to queue for hours.
The first residents of Belval Nord are welcomed with a charming neighbourhood party. Also the official start on the construction of the Maison du Savoir, the main building of the future university campus.
Inauguration of the new station “Belval University”, which replaces the old “Belval Usines” stop. In future, 100 trains will stop here every day, allowing around 32,000 people to board and disembark.
The second section of the multifunction centre Belvalplaza with apartments, shops, restaurants and a supermarket is opened in the autumn.
Inauguration of the first building of the new university campus, the “House of Biomedicine”, at the 1st International Systems Biomedicine Symposium in Luxemburg. Over 70 members of staff of the Research Institute of Biotechnology work here.
The Technoport business centre moves into its new premises in what used to be the steelworkers' changing rooms. The state's new, 60-metre high, 12-storey administrative building is completed at the end of the year. It is home to the national environmental administration, the water authority, the data protection commission and the Fonds Belval.
The foundation stone for the new university library is laid. The new Park & Rail building opens in October with a total of 1622 parking spaces for rail commuters. And at the end of the year it's "Happy Birthday" – the Belvalplaza Shopping Centre celebrates its 5th birthday.
Following extensive conservation work in recent years, the blast furnace system at Belval once again shines in a new light. Embedded in the new urban context, the plant is now open to visitors – and a source of information on the steel production for which Belval used to be famous. The festival lighting of the blast furnaces designed by Ingo Maurer is used for the first time to mark the first Blast Furnace Festival in July.
The new Park Belval is given its new name of "Park around Belval", and is opened with a big celebration. And in September it's finally time for the first university semester on the new Campus Belval. Uni-Val 1, the first hall of residence, opens its doors at the same time.
In line with the "Meet the Artist" series, the first artists of the Public Art Experience Project Belval introduce themselves and their work. In December, after a 10-year construction period, the 735-metre tunnel under Belval is opened to traffic. It is the main part of the new construction section of the Liaison Micheville, the new arterial road between Luxembourg and France.