Cultural spaces in Turnhout, a short introduction to city planning in Turnhout
guided tour by Hugo Meeks, architect and urban planner
In 1972 Turnhout was the first Flemish city to open a ‘cultureel and ontmoetingscentrum’, after a long discussion about how to call this new kind of infrastructure. Not a museum, not a neighbourhood centre, not an arts centre, but a kind of living room for the people of the region. As soon as the early 1970s, the combination of a free meeting place, artistic production, the library, a flea market, and art exhibitions enhanced social discussions on themes like urban renewal, mobility and the environment. De Warande was the birthplace of a number of spin-offs: Stripgids, Ar-Tur, Mooov, Dinamo, Kaaiman grew in this fertile meeting place.
Today, the newest urban policy change is about the public domain, the streets and squares of the city itself. Parks, squares and children’s playgrounds are conceived as meeting places for everyone. In Turnhout, Turnhout makes the most of the fact that cultural space is not about buildings and institutions, but about the space you give people to connect, to show the best of themselves, and to experience the world around them.
After the Turnhout city tour, you have a choice between 4 other study visits:
Dinamo is a spin-off of De Warande that organizes education for adults during the day and on Monday evenings. Remarkably, all of our courses, workshops and outings are given or led by volunteer experts and instructors. Ten professional team members (equivalent to seven full-time positions) direct 230 volunteers who deliver and lead some 400 activities per year. The average participant enrols in about 2.3 activities, which means Dinamo counts about 6,000 enrolments per year.
With partners in Greece, Denmark and the UC Leuven-Limburg, Dinamo is working on the European Project ‘Managing Volunteers/Empowering People’, or MAVEP. This encapsulates the focus of our project: intrinsic parts of the organisation of volunteer work are talent management and the stimulation of its growth. Our aim is to make stronger people through the elaboration of a powerful learning environment.
Dinamo is a partner of de Warande and the city of Turnhout, and is financially supported by the Flemish Government.
- In 2014 Stefan Perceval became director of Hetgevolg, a theatre-workplace in the centre of Turnhout. When Stefan started in Hetgevolg he found that nobody in the city had the slightest idea of what was going on behind the closed walls of the theatre. So the first thing he did was go out in the streets and talk to people. ‘It was then that I realized that one of my first tasks - or even obligations - was to create a bond between Hetgevolg, the city and the people in its streets’, says Stefan. He set up cooperation with the local centre for basic education, with the centre for people living in poverty, with refugee organizations and with other neighbouring organizations.
‘What is behind the wall?’ is Stefan's guiding question. His participatory and emancipatory methods help people express themselves in their own way and reveal emotions, dreams, and talents that had been hidden behind ‘walls’ of silence, fear or grief. The example of Hetgevolg shows how cultural education can help empower people within their local communities. Now, the city of Turnhout is also aware of the positive vibes Hetgevolg brings to the city and its habitants. And organisations from all over Belgium ask Hetgevolg to help them set up similar projects.
Kunstencampus at Turnova
In 1976, the Brepols Print Factory left the city centre to move 3 km south. Some 2000 workers moved with it, and left an empty space, only 100 meters from the Grote Markt main square. In 2004, successful public-private cooperation finally started, with the aim of creating a new living neighbourhood: Turnova. After a lot of planning and thinking, it is now being built.
In 2017 the first part was opened: the new Kunstencampus arts campus. Each week nearly 3000 students from 5 to 75 years old follow classes in drawing, painting, music, dance and more.
It is an example of how an institution can be connected to the life and people of a town centre.
The National Museum of the Playing Card
The museum is based in a former printing factory, is an ode to Turnhout’s rich graphic design and printing history. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, playing cards have been printed here and exported all over the world. There are only five playing card museums in the world and this is the only one that shows and explains the production process.
The historical printing presses displayed at the museum are still being used regularly. Twice a month, volunteers demonstrate the process of the printing, shining and cutting of playing cards. The volunteers are all former employees of printing companies who enjoy passing on their knowledge to visitors. There are several educational workshops available for local school children. Be sure not to miss the gigantic 19th century steam engine!
The world leading manufacturer of cards and games, Cartamundi, still produces up to a million sets of playing cards in Turnhout each day. The company designed a ‘room of the future’, which features several interactive digital displays and a selfie wall. But there’s more to come: the museum has exciting plans to involve young designers and card playing communities.