There is a 700-year-old village near the river Scheldt in Belgium that is currently facing the threat of demolition. This is the village of Doel, which was targeted for demolition during the 70s to expand the Antwerp harbour. The construction of a large dock and container terminal capable of receiving deep-sea ships began on a site next to the village, and the Port Authority wants to build another one where the village is located.
When the plans were made public, the residents obviously protested, and were successful in holding the efforts of the Port Authority for several decades. But government can be insistent, and at times can act harshly. In 2008, a 100-strong squad of riot police were sent into Doel to force evacuation. This made the thriving village look like a war-torn zone with rubble, and ugly gaps in between the houses. This prompted lots of residents to sell out to the corporation that will undertake the operation of demolition and construction to expand the Antwerp harbour. This turned the village almost into a complete ghost town, though some residents are still trying to hold out. But, this village attracted a different set of newcomers.
From all over Europe, artists began moving in, and slowly turning Doel into a giant artistic canvas. This is one of those times that graffitti was used positively, murals of all sorts adorn the walls of the deteriorating facade, like cartoons, aliens, weird pictures, and even a giant black and white sniffing rat. While the street art may not save the village, it has called attention to it, and given the remaining residents a sensory though temporary escape. Doel houses many historic buildings, including the oldest stone windmill of the country (1611), and the only windmill on a seawall, the Baroque Hooghuis (1613) – associated with the entourage and holdings of the famous 17th century Antwerp painter, Peter Paul Rubens; and many historical unique farmhouses such as the Reynard Farm with its monumental barn. The village is also famous for the nearby nuclear power station with its dominating twin towers reaching for the skyline. It is a wonder why the village has never been considered a historical site, that would surely put a halt to demolition plans. But unfortunately, eventually the place will be torn down. It is sad how some worthy old things must give way to newer, more useful things. Well the street art will not be forgotten even as they demolish everything. It is already a part of history.