Reallocation of Monastery of Colen

How can a monastery from 1438 remain relevant? Through a re-use!
The Colen Monastery, located in Borgloon, was purchased by NV Colen. The company appointed CityD to help develop the reallocation of the site. We explored the qualities of the monastery and provided a framework for contemporary use. Think of it as a contemporary retreat. So very promising.

Heritage site gets new function

The history of the Colen Monastery dates back to 1438, when it was founded by Maria van Kolen. The monastery, also known as Mariƫnlof Abbey, is a former Holy cross monastery where Cistercian sisters lived until recently. In 1947 the complex was protected as a monument.
On August 3, 2020, nv Colen purchased the site, making the company the first non-religious owner in 600 years. It is beautifully situated on the flank of the Kleine Herk valley, with its breathtaking panoramic view.

(photo: De Haan A., Flanders Architectural Heritage)

Mariƫnlof Abbey

Respect for the DNA of the monastery

The Colen monastery has had its typical appearance for centuries. It is a unique place: charming, romantic and with a strong DNA. Much of the monastery's character is generated by its location and gardens.

NV Colen will restore the heritage site by first tackling the exterior, roofs and exterior landscaping. In addition, plans will be made for the interior layout. This will be determined by future activities in and around the monastery. A complete repurposing will further enhance Colen's qualities and give the monastery an even stronger personality. The location will be given a more contemporary use. After renovation, the monastery will have a floor area of no less than 7,790 m2 .

New function

The search for interpretations that matched the DNA of the site led to a diverse range of possible functions:

  • Wellness Clinic
  • Wellness Relax
  • Short and long stays
  • Meetings & Events
  • Bistro/shop
  • Local crafts

Together with Studio H2L and I-Line, we guided Colen NV through the entire repurposing process. We ensured that the new interpretation became a coherent entity. The new functions had to fit well together and reinforce each other. The visitor experience is central to this.

Through market analyses, we examined which market segments could be addressed for each individual function. Financing was also constantly monitored.

We also carried out benchmarking and determined how Colen will position itself in the market. The strategic concept served as a guideline. Finally, we developed the storytelling that guides the communication and marketing for the renovated monastery.

Active tree management and sustainability

The reallocation takes nature into account, because the gardens will also be restored to their former glory. There will be a combination of an orchard with nuts/fruit in the monastery garden and a vegetable garden. The vegetable garden follows the original layout of 1770 (based on the Ferraris map). By planting 130 new trees, the park will become healthy again and gain structure.

The sustainable technical interventions will ensure quality for the next 100 years:

  • new roof tiles
  • restore and renew exterior carpentry where necessary
  • exterior painting works
  • renew utilities
  • sustainable energy (no carbon) with heat pumps.


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