Clay Commons

Boom, Belgium
Location Belgium
Period 2023-2024

The Flemish Landscape Society want art to play a role in increasing awareness the new ecology emerging on their land.

In the nineteenth century Boom, a small village situated between Brussels and Antwerp, experienced tremendous economic growth. Due to the presence of clay in its soil, it grew to become an important center of brick production. Brickyards sprouted all over the village and paved the way for other soon to be flourishing industries. The growing export to, among others Scotland, Canada and United States, attracted ships, increasing the need for shipyards to repair and construct and for quays to be able to dock safely. Transport over land increased as well, resulting in the manufacture of a bridge to connect with the shore of Klein-Willebroek. Boom was booming.

While this economic revolution led to wealth in the second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, the village’s’ natural resources started to dry up. The quarries became exhausted. The clay industry eventually collapsed around the seventies of last century. With the closing of the mines and brickyards, the other industries, that were dependent of the production of bricks, quickly followed and became dismantled. Work became scarce good for the citizens of Boom, pushing many of them into poverty, subsequently left without any work.

Not only was the landscape exhausted by the unbridled economic growth. After the disruption of this economic evolution in the 1970s, the clay land became a chemical waste dump for many years, leaving the soil completely impoverished and depleted. Under the impulse of several authorities, the clay landscape of Boom will be changed into a natural and ecological reservation area in the coming years. After centuries of exhaustion and misuse, the land will be restored and receive a new, second life.

While working on a broader land development project in the area of Boom, the Flemish Landscape Society stumbled upon this industrial past and its dramatic consequences for the nature and land of Boom. The municipality, feeling responsible, wants to make peace with the past by emphasizing the future. Joined by some residents, they formed a consortium of patrons. They want art to play a role in increasing awareness of and highlighting the new ecology emerging on their excavated land. An art work, at the entrance of the site of the nature reserve, will for them be able to represent this new ecological dawn.

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