That the Book Tower is in urgent need of restoration is no news. Back in the 1980s, Norbert Poulain mentioned the building's poor condition and after various efforts, he finally succeeded in having it officially registered as a protected monument in 1992.
But it would take ten more years until things started moving: the acquisition by André Singer of Henry Van de Velde's plans at a public auction at Henri Godts in Brussels on October 22nd. When making a first visit to the building, which he had in fact, until then, only known from the plans, he was dumbfounded noticing the numerous faulty interventions and architectural misfires the building had suffered, but he was even more astonished how well the building had resisted. From then on, he started to work behind the scenes to get this Book Tower, which was so perfect in his opinion, duly restored. He commissioned an inquiry that would make a detailed and complete list of what had gone wrong, and that would calculate the overall cost of proper repair. In 2003, the cost was estimated at 41 million Euros, a considerable amount of money, too high for a board of administrators to just say 'yes'....
No wonder things grew silent for a while. But then, perhaps, not quite... In 2004 the Department of Architecture and Urban Development commissioned a brand for the Book Tower among its students. The winning team developed a children's book and gave the Book Tower "a face" that would be visible all over the country during the 2006/2007 "Battle of Monuments".
Fientje Moerman, former Flemish Minister of Economy, who has known the Book Tower inside out ever since she was a child, broke the temporary silence that threatened to postpone the restoration endlessly, by commissioning a second opinion. This second report estimated the cost one million Euros less than the first.
The decisive steps were taken on September 16th, 2005, when former rector André De Leenheer obtained the university board's "yes" to the following questions:
1. do you recognize the Book Tower as an important architectural landmark and 2. can you agree to with a loan for the restoration of the building?
The next step would be the Flemish Government's Master Builder.