MAASTRICHT. Kaleido, which started off as an international student club in the Timmerfabriek and was subsequently housed all over the place, is expected to open its doors in Building Z at Tapijn in September 2022. No more temporary accommodation, but “finally a fixed place to meet,” says project leader Neal Cowan.
In 2019, Kaleido left the Timmerfabriek, in spite of the fact that when Maastricht University and the municipality signed the letter of intent, four years previous, this location was viewed to be the permanent operating base for international students. Kaleido’s target audience and programming was thought to clash too much with the Muziekgieterij, also located in the Timmerfabriek; so, the alderman responsible, Bert Jongen, announced that another meeting place would have to be found. Kaleido then had programmes at different locations, such as ‘t Keldertje in Landbouwbelang. Until Building Z at Tapijn became available, previously occupied by knowledge engineers.
“It was a long journey,” says Neal Cowan, project leader from Maastricht University, but Kaleido’s aim has not changed in the past few years. It is and will remain a hangout for internationally minded students. With lectures, concerts, a comedy night or disco party – and by now much more than that – especially in social and cultural areas. “Kaleido was given the time to mature, to experiment, to see what the needs were.”
According to Cowan, Kaleido will be a living room where people with different backgrounds, from different faculties and from outside the university, meet for a coffee, a beer, to study, chat, play ping-pong, play music, you name it.
Just as important is the network and support function. “You can attend a workshop or rent a space for meetings. And if students have any questions about registering with the Chamber of Commerce, we can help them along too. We know so many students who want to be helpful, who have ideas, but don’t quite know how to move forward.” Ideas such as? “Plans for the university, but also for the city or region. Things like Foodcoop Maastricht, where students have set up a collaboration with local producers of organic and sustainable products.” Cowan says that Kaleido is therefore “an informal student service centre.”
The International Student Network (ISN) initially took over the day-to-day running of the international student club. But they withdrew rather quickly because the job turned out to be too big. The UM then put its own team into place. Cowan: “Ultimately, the idea is still that Kaleido will become student-driven. Already students have signed up for decorating the building, the design, decor, furniture.”
Before we get that far, the city authorities will have to deal with permits (environment and catering) and the zoning plan. The Kaleido project group, of which Maurice Evers, department head of Maastricht Housing, is also a member, is hopeful: “We feel that it fits within the present zoning plan – education, research and related services – but we will have to wait and see if the city council also sees it that way. Was Kaleido a traditional student association, there would most likely be no need to adapt the present zoning plan”, Evers explains. But because Kaleido wants to give access to residents as well as its own members, for example to set up joint projects, this will now have to be discussed with the city council.
Evers: “No matter what, neighbours will be involved in the plans as soon as it is clear what possibilities the city is offering Kaleido at Tapijn. The objective is after all: bringing students and city together.”