A building with many functions — Across the canal is a building with tall windows and a beautiful staircase. Many people went up the staircase, but few came down it again... the building used to be a plague hospice where the terminally ill were nursed.
After 2020, it is inconceivable that the word ‘pandemic’ would not form part of our vocabulary, but then again epidemics are as old as the hills. For ages, the Netherlands has had to deal with infectious diseases such as the plague. In 1567, a hospice was built for plague sufferers: the Leeuwenbergh. During the Middle Ages, hospices were intended as shelters for the poor, the sick, the elderly and the homeless. One of the worst outbreaks of the plague in Utrecht occurred in 1636; the Leeuwenbergh hospice was packed and 15 per cent of the Utrecht population perished. At that time, the hospice had 70 beds and all were occupied. That was also the last time that the Leeuwenbergh was used as a plague hospice.
By the end of the 18th century, when the plague no longer played a role, the hospice had extended its care to the poor and those suffering from infectious diseases. By then, Utrecht had realised that a plague hospice did not really belong in the city centre where the chances of infecting others would be pretty high! So in 1793, the hospice Leeuwenbergh was handed over to the city and stopped being a hospice. It was, at that point, turned into military barracks.
In 1844, the curators of the Utrechtse Hogeschool (Utrecht Highschool?) asked the city administration to designate the Leeuwenbergh as a laboratory for their Faculty of Chemistry, which it remained for almost 60 years. Then the building was returned to the city and put to use as an exhibition centre. In 1908, the city gave the building on loan to the University. This time, it was occupied by the sub-faculty Pharmacy, which was part of Mathematical and Physics Sciences. In 1930, with the help of the famous architect G.W. van Heukelom, the Leeuwenbergh was converted to a church for the Netherlands Protestant Association and Liberally Reformed.
In 2004, the church community became unable to maintain the building, so the Stichting Vrienden van Leeuwenbergh (foundation Friends of the Leeuwenbergh) was born on May 17, 2004. On the first of February 2008, after a renovation, the Leeuwenbergh was put to use as a temporary ‘small concert hall’ while the new TivoliVredenburg (an expansion of the Vredenburg music centre) was being constructed, and it served for several years as an independent event location and concert hall. Now the building has a new owner. The Israeli musician Gavriel Lipkind is going to redesign the building principally as a centre for chamber music and call it ConcertLab.
ConcertLab is a high-tech film studio for classical music, a concert hall with an option to be rented out, and a distribution centre for music videos. Inspired musicians are invited to record their favourite music on video in a completely new way. So their music may be enjoyed from home in a pandemic-proof way. This way the lab and the hospice come together again in new ways.