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Document Details :
Title: De internationale context van de Belgische verwarmingstechnologie in haar relatie met de architectuur
Author(s): DE CLERQ, Lode
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Interieurgeschiedenis en Design
Volume: 32 Issue: Date: 2003
The International Context of 19th-century Belgian Heating Technology as Related to Architecture
Despite the fact that, among others, Siegfried Giedion in his Mechanisation Takes Command (1948) specifically focussed on the increasing technological dimension in the human environment, heating systems have not been dealt with by this author nor by most later writers dealing with the same general material. This despite what can only be described as a massive development in the area of building-heating since the industrial revolution. Besides the many improvements in traditional heating-unit concepts, it was particularly the stove which developed the most. Ceramic-tiled stoves, with a cast-iron heat-exchange mechanism within, also became very popular at the end of the 18th century. Metal stoves were for reasons of hygiene long out of favour, although they eventually made a dramatic breakthrough. This was a result of the desire to incorporate ventilation into the stoveand the chimney mechanism, a desire partly encouraged through the influence of publications by the French specialist, Eugène Péclet, especially concerning public buildings. Gas stoves began to enter the picture from the middle of the 19th century.
From the end of the 18th century, central heating systems followed three basic systems which were sometimes combined with one another. The oldest form, which went back to classical antiquity, was warm-air heating. This was initially the most common system and usually involved the installation in the basement of a relatively large furnace from which ducts led over a very limited distance (because of the rapid cooling) in order to circulate the warm air.
A second system, developed from 1777 by Bonnemain, was hot-water heating. The central principle was the natural circulation that could be created in a closed circuit by means of heating. Variations on this system soon followed to provide continuous heating and, as far as it was possible, a differentiated heating regime. The first system was widely used in greenhouses and conservatories of all kinds (for example, in 1845 in the Ghent botanical gardens). Sometimes hot-water radiators were also connected to the system. By around 1840, very large buildings were being heated in this way, including for instance the church of St Madeleine in Paris. An important variation on this system was high-pressure hot-water heating, known as the Perkins system after its inventor, and patented in London in 1831. This was first used in Belgium in 1834 in the house of the Ghent industrialist Joseph Huyttens-Kerremans.
A third system that caught on early in the 19th century was steam heating. After its introduction in England, it was applied on a grand scale in the 1820s in the new Paris stock exchange. Belgium followed relatively soon thereafter and the system saw its first sophisticated use in the Brussels botanical gardens. A groundbreaking installation was carried out starting in 1839 in the new Ghent opera house. The contract was won by the enterprising industrialist Charles Marcellis from Liège and designed by his engineer V. Duval. The concept of the installation was based on the insights of Jean-Pierre Joseph d’Arcet and Philippe Grouvelle, applied since 1829 in a number of Paris theatres. Steam heating later reached its highpoint in Belgium in such buildings as the Muntschouwburg (opera house) in Brussels (1874) and ultimately in one of the largest buildings in the world, the Brussels Justitiepaleis (law courts building) (1883). The Parisian influence remained crucial, mainly through the activities of Geneste, Herscher & Cie, a company with an important branch in Brussels.
By the end of the 19th century, both steam and hot-water heating were increasingly used in private dwellings. In the course of the 20th century, hot-water systems gradually won the day .