The Awesome Graffiti of Belgium’s Doomed Ghost Town
It’s eerie feeling: walking down the streets of a modern town where no one – or almost no one – lives. The roads are still usable, many of the houses look habitable, yet there is barely a car to be seen, certainly not moving, and the rooms behind the windows are all but empty. This is the abandoned village of Doel, in Belgium, a place one recent visitor described as “the most spooky place I have ever been; real shiver down the spine stuff.” Despite the town’s virtually deserted state, there is life in Doel – beyond the scattering of people who remain. The life forms include giant animals, weird looking human figures and aliens, alongside robots and strange, disconnected body parts. They’re all here in the form of huge graffiti art pieces that cover many of the walls and buildings in this abandoned settlement. And they’re as colorful and varied as anything found in nature. Sadly, though, like the reverse graffiti and moss graffiti covered previously by EG, this street art is not expected to last forever. This isn’t simply the transience associated with all graffiti, either. Soon, when the authorities have their way, the art will find itself at the bottom of a harbor; incredible graffiti pieces, as doomed as bricks on which they are painted. Doel has been in existence for hundreds of years, dating back to at least 1267, when it was known as ‘The Doolen’. Because of its heritage, there are many historical buildings in the village, including the oldest stone windmill in Belgium, constructed in 1611, and a house built by famous 17th-century painter Peter Paul Rubens. To the north lies the Doel Nuclear Power Station (whose cooling towers you can see in this photo), which produces electricity for Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Yet it was not only such noteworthy landmarks that lured photographer and filmmaker Romany WG – real name Jeremy Gibbs – to Doel. An urban explorer interested in the decay of our built environments, and the beauty that lies therein, Romany WG came to take pictures of the abandoned village and the awesome graffiti pieces that have sprung up there since its residents began to leave in 1999. Despite having stood for over seven centuries, Doel is slated to be demolished in order to make way for the widening of Antwerp’s harbor. The government has been attempting to seize the land for this purpose since the 1970s, but it didn’t succeed in passing the demolition order until 1999.