Institut Jules Bordet

The Institut Jules Bordet in Brussels (121 Boulevard de Waterloo) is the only autonomous hospital in Belgium totally dedicated to cancer screening, research and clinical care. At the beginning it was named Clinique Médico-chirurgicale Paul Héger & Institut Jules Bordet and arose from a long public debate about the best way to provide to the public excellent facilities for cancer treatment.

As a final decision, "the new institute would include a section for "paying patients" and a tumour service called the "Jules Bordet Institute". The CAP [Commission d'Assistance Publique] had suggested Jules Bordet's name on June 21, 1935. In fact, from 1924, Jules Bordet had participated in the scientific direction of the tumor center. He had won renown because of his research on microbiology, which received a Nobel Prize in 1919, and thanks to his teaching skills. The section for the "non-destitute" would be called "Clinique Médico-Chirurgicale Paul Héger" in memory of the former Chairman of the Administrative Board of the ULB [Université Libre de Bruxelles] who bound the ULB and the CAP together and who participated in the development of the first tumour centre.
This clinic would be completely distinct from the rest. It would have a separate entrance and would allow the wealthy to be treated by the physicians of their choice, in return for fees. The CAP would be entirely in charge of the management of this clinic. Thanks to the National Cancer Foundation, the Bordet Institute would have 6 grams of radium at its disposal. Until 1925 state-run hospitals were exclusively reserved for the destitute. So, it was the first time that a state-run institution in Brussels would include a clinic for the treatment of "paying patients".

The buildings would have the shape of an "L". One part (the H-wing) would be reserved for hospitalisation and the other one (the T-wing) for treatments. On May 30, 1935, after a contest organized by the CAP, two architects, Gaston Brunfaut and Stanislas Jasinski, were chosen. Both architects worked in harmony: G. Brunfaut was in charge of the H-wing and S. Jasinski of the T-wing.
The construction of the building shell and the completion works were attributed to the company S.A. Gve Mommaerts et Cie, for an amount of 297.780 euros (11.911.138 old Belgian francs). The costs of the constructions, the equipment, and the furnishing were estimated at some 20.078.000 old Belgian francs (501.950 euros), without the building land. A devaluation of the Belgian franc in January 1936, however, forced both architects to exclude any kind of luxury for the construction and to cancel, among others, the special wing that had been planned for consultations at the corner of the "rue Breughel" on the Waterloo boulevard. (…)

It was King Leopold III who laid the foundations of the Bordet Institute. Works began on August 1, 1936. On June 21, 1939, the Bordet Institute was inaugurated. At that time, it was a very modern building. (…) The following September, the Institute opened to the public, however, the Second World War broke out just before clinical activities could start. As a result, from 1940-45 the building was first used as a hospital for Wehrmacht officers (a major part of the equipment was stolen), and at the Liberation, it was used as a military hospital for the British Army.The Institute was available for the population only from October 1, 1945.

Except for the Second World War period, the Bordet Institute has always been not merely a center for cancer treatment, but also a teaching and research center. Therefore, the originality of this Institute is based on the enlightened philosophy according to which cancer has to be treated by a team of physicians of different disciplines who share the same specialized knowledge of the disease, based on clinical practice and research.

Nowadays, the Jules Bordet Institute is the only Belgian institute that can be considered as an integrated anti-cancer center, dedicated to the screening, the diagnosis and the treatment of cancer, and which has a clinical, scientific and teaching activity dedicated to the health problems caused by this terrible disease. Then the modern history of the Jules Bordet Institute started with the arrival of Prof. Albert Claude as Scientific Director"1.

  • Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (August 2009)

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- Various Authors, L'architecture hospitalière en Belgique, Ministère de la Communauté Flamande, Service des Monuments et des Sites, Brussels 2005, pp. 126-7.

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