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

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

For more than two decades, the little community was reported to have vanished from the map. Many ancient structures will be demolished since the area is hazardous to live in, but inhabitants of the hamlet’s ever-dwindling population are battling to keep their houses and the community alive.

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

Doel was already slated for destruction by the government by the 1970s. They needed the extra room for their shipping ports, and the little community fought the prospect of annihilation for twenty years. Several intended demolitions were canceled as a result of popular opposition.

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

While the majority of Doel’s structures are standard 20th-century terraced dwellings, others are stunning specimens of ancient, historical architecture. Many of the residences date from the 18th and 19th centuries, including the century town hall on Camerman Street, the Baroque parsonage on Hooghuis Street, and the spotless white mansion that was formerly home to Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens.

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

The feeling of being inside the abandoned dwellings is bizarre. Graffiti may be seen everywhere, including schools and petrol stations, and the continual hum of high-voltage power lines adds to the post-apocalyptic ambiance. In some houses, furniture and toys may still be found in rooms and gardens.

The village attracted street artists from across Belgium. Source

Despite the people’s best efforts, Doel could not be spared, and the town was formally planned for destruction in 1999. Doel 2020, a campaign organization, planned in 2007 to make Doel the city of graffiti, and some citizens even invited street artists to come out and build an open-air exhibition.

From a population of roughly 1,300 in the early 1970s, barely 25 people remain who are committed to defend their houses. The area soon drew street artists from all around Belgium and beyond, who left their imprint. Tags, stencils, and free-hand paintings adorn the whole village.

Today, there are only about 25 inhabitants left. Source
The gas station. Source

However, due to the future expansion of the Port of Antwerp, the community is still under threat of total annihilation. When the regional administration publicly announced its plans, residents appeared to have lost the battle.

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

“The Belgian town of Doel was recovered from the river Scheldt at the beginning of the 17th century,” an author writes in a magazine article on the settlement’s demolition. Three hundred years later, the hamlet that would develop beyond the sea wall is under jeopardy. The threat is posed not by a crumbling dike or an unexpectedly rapid rise in water levels, but by Antwerp’s booming Port and its insatiable need for more and more land along the Scheldt to build on.

Doel, the last of Belgium’s polder settlements on the banks of the Scheldt near the North Sea, is now under threat of destruction. A major dock and container terminal capable of accepting deep-sea ships is already under construction on a location adjacent to the hamlet, and the Port Authority considers erecting a second one where the village now exists.”

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