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Thermotechnical Institute

General information and history

General information and history

The Thermotechnical Institute was founded under the Special Schools of the University of Leuven, which organized the education of numerous engineering students within the Faculty of Sciences from 1864 to 1961. Afterwards these Special Schools became an independent Faculty, which today exists as the Faculty of Engineering Science.

The current Thermotechnical Institute was built between 1926 and 1931 by the architect Emile Goethals, together with the Institute for Industrial Chemistry and Metallurgy (which today hosts the Department of Materials Engineering). The Thermotechnical Institute had to provide a location to accomodate lab sessions of mechanical engineering, electricity and thermal machinery to engineering students of that time. During the period that followed, the Institute collected an impressive collection of steam engines, steam turbines, combustion engines, jet engines and electrical machinery.

Source: taken from “Thermotechnisch Instituut”, Van den Bulck and Jaenen. Also taken from "Thermotechnisch instituut en de Speciale Scholen voor Ingenieurs", Inventaris Onroerend Erfgoed (

The architect

Emile Goethals (1886 – 1951) attained the degree of engineer-architect at the university of Leuven in 1908 and did his internship with his dad, Jules Goethals (1855 – 1918). In 1918 Goethals succeeded Vincent Lenertz (1864 – 1914) in the studio of ‘graphical works’ at the Special Schools for Engineers of the K.U. Leuven. Goethals was a professor in architectural composition and urban planning, civil architecture and building legislation from 1930 to 1951. Goethals’ oeuvre illustrates the principles which he discussed during his lectures as an advocate for the structural use of concrete, but opposed to the avant-garde innovations like the Corbusian plan libre or exposed concrete. Besides the Institute of Physical Education, Goethals also designed the Special Schools for Engineers (cf. Thermotechical Institute) and the Institute of Chemistry (design 1949, inaugurated 1956).

Source: Taken from "Emile Goethals", Inventaris Onroerend Erfgoed (



Opening of the Institut Électroméchanique at Vlamingenstraat


Frans Timmermans aspires for the construction of a new, larger institute of electromechanics


World War I


The University of Leuven acquires the castle of Arenberg in Heverlee and the accompanying domain


Inauguration of the new university campus in Heverlee


Design of the Thermotechnical Institute (among others) assigned to Emile Goethals


Completion of the Thermotechnical Institute and first lab sessions organized by Prof. Daubresse and Prof. Coppens


Whittle W2-700 jet engine installed


Rolls-Royce Derwent VIII jet engine installed


"La Meuse" steam turbine moved to Louvain-la-Neuve
"Mathot" steam boiler put out of service


Opening "Theokot" in a part of the Institute


Renovation Thermotechnical Institute with new auditorium "Tweede hoofdwet" (2nd law)