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Blast from the past - the history of Belval
South Luxembourg

Blast from the past - the history of Belval

by LT staff 2 min. 11.11.2018 From our online archive
Did you know the history of Belval goes back over 100 years? Luxembourg Times explains
Today Belval is synonymous with music, education and leisure Photo: LW archive
Today Belval is synonymous with music, education and leisure Photo: LW archive

The modern Belval site in the south of Luxembourg turned 13 years old in 2018, but did you know that the history of this area stretches back over 100 years? Luxembourg Times explains.

Today, Belval in the south of Luxembourg is synonymous with a number of things: live music with its Rockhal venue, higher education with the university campus and leisure with the cinema and Belval Plaza shopping mall, among other things.

But, it was not always the case and the site has gone through one of the most dramatic changes of any area in the Grand Duchy, from forest to natural spring site and later hosting a state-of-the-art steelworks.

The site occupied today by Belval was initially untouched forest between Belvaux and Esch, known as the "Escher Bësch", until the discovery and commercial exploitation of a mineral spring by Joseph Steichen.

The water, which became famous for its healing qualities, was bottled and sold from 1898, selling over 30,000 bottles in Benelux during its first year.

Once the site's commercial potential was noticed, it spelled a death toll for the lush green forests of the area, which were cleared to make way for the steelworks in 1909.

The blast furnaces of the past Photo: Shutterstock
The blast furnaces of the past Photo: Shutterstock

The plant dealt with every stage of steel production and in 1913, it employed more than 3,000 steelworkers. In 1979, the plant was modernised, pulling down six blast furnaces and replacing them with three new ones in order to increase production volume.

By 1993, the blast furnaces were gradually closed and replaced with an electric furnace fed with scrap metal.

Belval's steel chapter came to a close in 1997 when the last remaining blast furnace was closed and discussions began concerning the future of the 120-hectare site.

In 2000, the Agora development company was founded by the Luxembourg state and Arbed Steel group (later to become ArcelorMittal) and the partners conceived plans for an attractive place for people to live and work.

Designs were drawn up after which the first developments began to take shape. One of the first buildings to open was the Rockhal, Luxembourg's biggest concert hall, which opened its doors in 2005. The same year scientists from the Gabriel Lippmann research centre were relocated to Belval.

Shopping centre Belval Plaza opened in 2008, including a 1,500-seat cinema and, in 2009, the first residents moved to Belval (nord). It became easier to reach the site by train when, in 2010, the Belval University train station opened along with the second stage of Belval Plaza.

The University of Luxembourg opened its first building, the "House of Biomedicine", in 2011, which was followed by numerous other moves and building inaugurations since.

While new developments continue to appear at Belval the site has not lost touch with its industrial roots. At the heart of the development remains the iconic steelworks building, which is today used for historic tours and exhibitions.