THE ABANDONED FACTORY IN BELGIUM
‘Carcoke Zeebrugge’ was a coking plant in Zwankendamme, near the coastal town Zeebrugge in Belgium. This huge industrial site with many buildings housed some beautiful decay. Eventually, the site was demolished and cleaned in 2005, a year after my visit.
On August 24, 1900, architect René Buyck was given permission to build this cokes plant. The idea was to import British coal by ship, and to transform it into coke to supply the steel industry in the Ruhr and the Meuse valley. This explains the strategic position of the plant, right behind the floodgates, along the canal to Bruges and near the railroad. Together with the glass works, the cokes plant was the only important industrial activity in the hundred years history of Zeebrugge Seaport.
During its history, the plant has undergone many changes. In the 1930s, there was even an ammunition-factory on the site. From the original installation, dating to the beginning of the 20th century, there is only one huge coal bunker left. The majority of the buildings date from the 1920s. The coke-oven itself consists of a battery of 50 German furnaces made in 1930, 25 Otto-Simon-Carves furnaces from Holland dated 1952 and lastly 35 French CGCF furnaces from 1959. Only the French and the Dutch furnaces were active after the Second World War. Finding three different types of ovens on one site, makes Carcoke Zeebrugge interesting and unique. Other parts of the technical installation are mainly from the 1950s and 1960s.
When the plant turned 100 years old, the Flemish government inherited the site from the former Cockerill-Sambre Company. OVAM, the Public Waste Agency of Flanders, has received control of the site, with the purpose to clean it up and to convert it into new industrial area. Although many techniques do exist to conciliate conservation of the unique buildings with the cleaning up of the soil, conservation of any trace of the history and heritage is not taken into consideration. Eventually, OVAM demolished all the buildings and destroyed all its fixtures and fittings. After 2005 there was nothing left. This is one of my first explores and still one of the most beautiful locations I documented. I visited ‘Carcoke Zeebrugge’ in 2004.