Institut Joseph Lemaire
THE ABANDONED HOSPITAL IN BELGIUM
It use to have the looks of a luxury hotel, but in fact ‘Institut Joseph Lemaire’ or ‘Sanatorium Lemaire’ was a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. The beautiful building designed by Maxime Brunfaut was built in 1936 for the socialist insurance company La Prévoyance Sociale.
The sanatorium was designed to accommodate 150 male patients. Its unique architecture moved away from the old-fashioned corridor hospitals built in the early part of the century. Instead Brunfaut used bold linear elements mixed with light airy interior spaces. It was built in a modernism and neues bauen style. On the roof used to be ‘Prevoyance Sociale’ written in bright red neon. We found one ‘R’ in a dark cellar under the hospital.
During the Second World War the Red Cross reconverted it for several years into a hospital for 235 people. Later, from 1968 on, the function as a lung sanatorium was discontinued and the building was given a new purpose. Lemaire was now as a rehabilitation center for long-term sick and counseling for people with a disability.
‘Institut Joseph Lemaire’ was abandoned in 1987, since then squatters, graffiti artists and, of course, urban explorers took over the building. As a result most of the building is in very bad shape. Thieves and local youth trashed the place. For example metal parts were all stolen and there isn’t one wall without some graffiti. But still the building is magnificent and beautiful. Due to its imaginative design, the sanatorium has been studied throughout the world and has been featured in many architectural publications. Eventually it was reconverted in 2015 into ‘Residentie Tombeekheyde’. A home for the elderly. The new building was inaugurated in 2017. I visited the abandoned sanatorium in 2005.