The academic year commences soon. Traditionally, an opening ceremony with a speech from the chancellor will be held at the auditorium. Paying attention in the Aula Academia of Ghent University will be difficult, since the auditorium is a fine example of neoclassical architecture.
In 1816, King William I of the Netherlands decides to erect a university in the city of Ghent. At the time, the city undergoes a complete redevelopment, and the city council of Ghent insists on having a prestigious palace representing the grandeur of the university ánd the city.
The project is assigned to the promising architect Louis Roelandt from Newport, Belgium. Barely six months later the alumnus of the Academy of Ghent presents his ‘Palace of the University’ to the city council. The neoclassical temple with portico façade, inspired by the Roman Pantheon, exceeds all expectations.
Imposing on the outside, but most impressive on the inside. Because, when going inside you face an immense vestibule decorated with stone columns, originating from the ruins of the St Peter’s Abbey. The marble stairwell with exquisite wallpaintings leads to an amphitheatre with podium. But it is mainly the ceiling of the rotunda dome that stands out. And although it is difficult to see with the bare eye, not a single octagon is identic.
In 1819, Roelandt was appointed city architect and also achieved the opera, the Court of Appeal and St-Anne’s church.
Thanks to Archief UGent – Photos: Hilde Christiaens, except n° 5