Historic building will become architecture school

David Kohn Architects' scheme for the Hasselt University beguinage

David Kohn Architects’ scheme for the Hasselt University beguinage

David Kohn Architects has won an international competition to convert an 18th-century religious building in Belgium into an architecture school.

The €8.9m (£8m) scheme for the University of Hasselt is the practice’s second major international commission this year, after it landed a 9,600sq m apartment building in Berlin in June.

Working with Belgian firm Bovenbouw Architectuur, Kohn will remodel a “beguinage”, which is a convent-like complex of buildings common to the Low Countries where “beguines” – or religious women who did not take vows like nuns – lived in sheltered communities.

The competition brief asked for designs that could accommodate a mix of cultural and educational uses including multi-functional spaces, studios, teaching spaces and an auditorium, and for the wider site to become a public amenity and regional attraction.

Surrounded by a wall, the 6,800 sq m beguinage is in the centre of the town beside the ruins of a church that was damaged in the Second World War. The church’s footprint will become a reflecting pool which can be drained and used as a stage.

The only built addition to the site is a panoramic 26m high belvedere in the southern corner.

DKA is looking to recruit a Dutch-speaking architect to lead the project from the London office, with applications closing on September 16.