Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire

World Monuments Watch
Tombeek, Belgium

2010 World Monuments Watch

In the early 20th century, tuberculosis continued to sweep through Europe, affecting primarily the urban poor, whose living conditions offered the perfect environment for the transmission and spread of the deadly disease. While technology and science hastened to repel the infection, the advent of modernist architecture offered its own solutions to fighting the disease. Between 1936 and 1937, Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire was completed following the designs of architects Fernand and Maxime Brunfaut to address and confront tuberculosis. The Brunfauts—educated in modernist theories of architecture—sought functionality and strict hygienic requirements without compromising the aesthetics of the sanatorium. In its pastoral setting, the combination of glass, ceramic, and concrete create a sterile appearance to match that of the façade’s opaque tiles. The open plan of the sanatorium’s linear, perpendicular wings, with its fluid sequence of interior spaces and plastic articulation of the building mass, not only garnered international recognition and praise, but was functional and pragmatic. Forced to close its doors in 1987 due to changing regulations for hospitals in Belgium, Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire has since fallen into significant disrepair. Decay, vandalism, and theft have conspired to leave the sanatorium in urgent need of attention.

Last updated: July 2017.

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