Welcome to Doel, Belgium's Doomed Graffiti Village

Welcome to Doel, Belgium's Doomed Graffiti Village

It gets much livelier at night ...

The first mention of the medieval village of Doel is in 1267, when 'the Doolen' was a small island surrounded by flooded plains. Times have changed and Doel's no longer waterlogged, but if the port of Antwerp has its way - and all signs indicate it will - Doel will vanish as the space-hungry port expands. Most of the inhabitants moved out or were bought out, yet 25 remain, determined to hold on to their homes. But how do you fight developers? By turning the town into an open-air museum, and encouraging graffiti artists far and wide to use the abandoned buildings of Doel as their canvas.

At first the scheme seemed to be working well, but there are drawbacks. Abandoned properties attract more than just graffiti artists. Illegal raves in abandoned buildings and street racing has become common, especially at night. "Last night I got to sleep at 2am because I could hear people racing down the streets in their cars," says one resident, while others have taken to leaving notes on their front door - dit huis is bewoond, or 'this house is inhabited' - to dissuade vandals.

The port is using this to strengthen its argument that the town is unsafe and uninhabitable. It's anyone's guess how much longer the hold outs can hold out; some of them have lived in Doel all their lives, and have said they intend to die there.

Only 11 houses remain inhabited, and they - along with the church, the cemetery and a historic property that once was owned by Rubens' family - are the only buildings unmarked by graffiti. Once Doel is demolished, the historic house will be preserved and rebuilt elsewhere, but that, and some memories, will be all that's left of Belgium's graffiti ghost village.

Source: Guardian
Images: Fatcap

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Karloff:
Only 11 houses remain inhabited, and they - along with the church, the cemetery and a historic property that once was owned by Rubens' family - are the only buildings unmarked by graffiti.

That's interesting. This "unsafe and uninhabitable" city seems to at least have some sense of morality.

On the plus side, at least the artwork has been documented, so it won't be lost. Street artists expect their work to be temporary.

There has to be a way to preserve all that artwork and either incorporate the murals into the new development or move them to a new location. The port authority should be forced to share the cost of doing so by the state or the city or whoever is on the other end of the expansion deal.

I'm sure all the horse-breeders and buggy makers complained quite a lot when the car 'rolled' in on their market shares. Or when barrel makers saw foundries replace their wooden beer kegs with aluminum ones.

Its called progress.

Yes - it sucks when a nice little village has to go - but trust me: A lot more has been 'lost' over the last 50 years. If anything, then this particular story only pops up because some newspaper decided to write about it. Quite a lot of old buildings get torn down every year - very few of them are mentioned in the press, not even if some of them have history.

My first thought: "Zit ik hier per ongeluk op een vlomse site ofzo?" or "Did I accidentally go to a flemish site" but then I was like: "Oh, holy shit." Glad to know news about Doel is spreading. It's a sad story, really, and it really pains me to see our government bully these people out of their homes.

That's going to be a very small expansion of Antwerp Harbour, unless they plan to take out the nuclear powerplant just next to the village as well. Using Google maps I make it maybe 1 mile from the current harbour to the plant, the village is in between.

McGuinty1:
There has to be a way to preserve all that artwork and either incorporate the murals into the new development or move them to a new location. The port authority should be forced to share the cost of doing so by the state or the city or whoever is on the other end of the expansion deal.

The port authority falls under the authority of the city of Antwerp. The company that wants to develop Doel is funded by the government. Not to mention that a large number of wealthy and powerful people have stakes in it. In short, the continued existence of Doel is kind of an eyesore to both the government and the private sector. Having already take steps to preserve the historical buildings, it's unlikely the authorities will consider the artwork culturally significant enough, not in light of the great economic importance of the port, barring maybe massive public outcry which has largely died out by now.

If those last remaining inhabitants want to save Doel, they'd be better off trying to get it declared a protected nature reserve. With human presence greatly diminished, the area has become somewhat of a haven for fauna and flora. In fact, the principal reason Doel is still around is because of European environmental laws.

I agree with you in principal, but I doubt it will happen.

This is very close to where I live. The worst thing is the uncertainty, since the 60's there has been plans to expand the port and since the 90's more concrete plans for a dock where the village now is. This has caused people to move out and no (or very little) people moving in. A bit hypocritical too use the abandoned properties as an argument if you look at it this way. I do think those who couldn't sell their house were compensated in some way. By the way, there's also a nuclear plant since 1974. Anyway, the port of Antwerp has expanded over all those year but still there are people living in Doel and pressure groups are still fighting for the existence of Doel. Last thing I heard was they installed a gate they close at night anyone who has no bussiness there can't enter.

Ronack:
My first thought: "Zit ik hier per ongeluk op een vlomse site ofzo?" or "Did I accidentally go to a flemish site" but then I was like: "Oh, holy shit."

Glad you like it! As you can probably tell from the source's dates, I've known about Doel for a short while now, and under other circumstances I might have posted this earlier in the week. However for obvious reasons it would have been silly to do so; it would have vanished under a pile of E3 news. Now that E3's slowly winding up, I figured you guys might appreciate a chance in pace.

webkilla:
I'm sure all the horse-breeders and buggy makers complained quite a lot when the car 'rolled' in on their market shares. Or when barrel makers saw foundries replace their wooden beer kegs with aluminum ones.

Its called progress.

Yes - it sucks when a nice little village has to go - but trust me: A lot more has been 'lost' over the last 50 years. If anything, then this particular story only pops up because some newspaper decided to write about it. Quite a lot of old buildings get torn down every year - very few of them are mentioned in the press, not even if some of them have history.

No. Fuck that. These houses are these people's homes. Believe it or not, people can and do have sentimental value on stuff like their houses. The fact that corporations and even civic councils can force people from their homes is strangely enraging to me. You know, it's law here, in Ireland, that if you want to build something onto your property, doesn't matter what it is, a conservatory, a shed, you have to get council planning permission. There's a bribe in all but name to get it going. If I own property and I want to have a shed or garage, I should be able to build a shed on it. It's my property. Not the councils'.

I wonder what legal options the remaining inhabitants have. Could they force the government to buy them out for a much higher sum then the net worth of their property? Probably not. I guess the government has its way of circumventing such trouble. As they usually do.

Yay for Belgium :D
Even if it's bad news or good news it's always nice (creepy) when Belgium gets mentioned online :P
Still really pretty stuff that's being drawn there.

a Question for all you non dutch speaking gents and ladies here: How do you pronounce Doel? >:3

Prepare Your Keyhole:
Yay for Belgium :D
Even if it's bad news or good news it's always nice (creepy) when Belgium gets mentioned online :P
Still really pretty stuff that's being drawn there.

a Question for all you non dutch speaking gents and ladies here: How do you pronounce Doel? >:3

Like tool with a "D" instead of a "T".

The expansion of the harbor is specifically aimed at reaching that powerplant, of course along with gaining more space. The spot right next to that plant is a nice spot for chemical plants and such that require a lot of power. One of the four reactors at that facility is already being used solely to power chemical plants in the harbor. We all know basic electricity laws say that the longer electricity has to travel the more is lost to the resistance of the cables transporting it. Having your power supply just across the street is a big plus to the chemical companies looking to build there.
Disclaimer: I don't actually know who is goint to take what space in the harbor but one of my chemistry professors explained this to me.

Chaos Marine:

No. Fuck that. These houses are these people's homes. Believe it or not, people can and do have sentimental value on stuff like their houses. The fact that corporations and even civic councils can force people from their homes is strangely enraging to me. You know, it's law here, in Ireland, that if you want to build something onto your property, doesn't matter what it is, a conservatory, a shed, you have to get council planning permission. There's a bribe in all but name to get it going. If I own property and I want to have a shed or garage, I should be able to build a shed on it. It's my property. Not the councils'.

im not for forcing people out of their homes, but two things here is that no you should not be allowed to build anything you want. the reason you need permissions is because your are not the only person in the city. just like you cant build a skyscraper that overshadows half the city you cant build your shed in where it can do anything to your neighboar. and that includes shadows (which is why we have rules about distance from border for house being built legally).
And the land doesn ot belong to you. all land belongs to the country. you are merelly loaning it for undetermined time. at some point somone bought the lending rights from the state (or was given), and then you bought these rights from that person. at least thats how land is taken in high law.

 

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