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The ghost town of Doel and its stunning street art has been set for demolition and will be lost forever

David Goran

Doel is a subdivision of the municipality of Beveren in the Flemish province of East-Flanders, a 400-year-old village north-west of Antwerp, Belgium.

The small village was supposed to have been wiped off the map for over two decades. Many historical buildings will be destroyed because the place is unsafe for living, but members of the ever-dwindling local populace are fighting to keep their homes and the village alive. Scroll down for video

It is located less than 30km from Antwerp, in a surreal landscape an area with a nuclear power station. Source

It is located less than 30km from Antwerp, in a surreal landscape an area with a nuclear power station. Source

 

The buildings stand as transient artifacts. Source

The buildings stand as transient artifacts. Source

By the 1970s, Doel was already a target for demolition by the government. They wanted the extra space for their shipping docks and for twenty years, the small town battled against the threat of destruction. Thanks to popular protest, several scheduled demolitions were cancelled.

Doel first received media attention in the 1960s when plans to extend the port of Antwerp were floated. Source

Doel first received media attention in the 1960s when plans to extend the port of Antwerp were floated. Source

 

Trying to force residents out, the government scheduled demolitions multiple times. Source

 

A graffiti of a Bull on one of the abandoned houses in Doel. Source

A graffiti of a Bull on one of the abandoned houses in Doel. Source

While most of the buildings in Doel are typical 20th-century terraced houses, some are beautiful examples of old, historical architecture. Many houses are dating from the 18th and 19th century, such as the century town hall in Camerman Street, the Baroque parsonage in Hooghuis street and the pristine white villa which was ones a home of Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens.

The Doel polder site is unique to Belgium and dates back to the Eighty Years War. Source

The Doel polder site is unique to Belgium and dates back to the Eighty Years War. Source

 

Free-hand paintings. Source

Inside the abandoned houses is a surreal experience. Graffiti are everywhere – in schools, gas stations, and the constant hum of high-voltage power lines intensifies the post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Some houses still have furniture and toys lying around in rooms and gardens.

The village attracted street artists from across Belgium. Source

But despite the will of the people, Doel could not be saved and in 1999, the town was officially scheduled for complete demolition. In 2007, a campaign group called Doel 2020 decided to make Doel the city of graffiti and some residents even encouraged street artists to turn up, so they can create an open-air gallery.

From a population of around 1, 300 in the early 70s, there are now only 25 inhabitants left who are determined to defend their homes. Soon, the village attracted street artists from across Belgium and abroad who left their mark. The whole village is colorful with tags, stencils, and free-hand paintings.

The village attracted street artists from across Belgium. Source

Today, there are only about 25 inhabitants left. Source

 

The gas station. Source

The gas station. Source

However, the village is still threatened with complete demolition due to the future enlargement of the Port of Antwerp. Residents seemed to have lost the fight when the regional government officially outlined its plans.

As Antwerp expanded in the 20th century, its port needed more space, and Doel quickly became a target for demolition. Source

As Antwerp expanded in the 20th century, its port needed more space, and Doel quickly became a target for demolition. Source

 

Many people sold their homes to the development corporation. Source

Many people sold their homes to the development corporation. Source

An author says in one magazine article concerning the demolition of the village, “The Belgian village of Doel was reclaimed from the river Scheldt at the beginning of the 17th century. Three hundred years later and the village that would grow behind the sea wall is under threat. The threat comes not from a failing dike or an unexpectedly sudden rise in water levels, but rather from the expanding Port of Antwerp and its insatiable need for more and more land along the Scheldt in which to grow. Now, Doel, the last of the Belgian polder villages on the banks of the Scheldt near the North Sea, faces possible demolition. The construction of a large dock and container terminal capable of receiving deep-sea ships is already underway on a site immediately next to the village, and the Port Authority proposes building a second one where the village now stands.”