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Building in (times of) war. Blaton's construction activities in occupied Belgium


Medium: conference paper
Language(s): English
Conference: 6th International Congress on Construction History (6ICCH 2018), July 9-13, 2018, Brussels, Belgium
Published in:
Page(s): 547-554
Year: 2018
Abstract: Although the amount of building projects reduced strongly in Belgium during the Second World War, the Brussels-based contractor Blaton was able to continue some of its activities and this with more projects than was previously assumed. As such, the Blaton archive offers a rare opportunity to investigate the legal, economic and practical conditions of building in occupied Belgium. This contribution examines a selection of wartime projects undertaken by Blaton: the Karlec factory in St.-Niklaas, the Ghent St. Nicolas Church and the Ghent harbor quays. All three cases were examples of the early application of pre-stressed concrete, a technology for which Blaton, in collaboration with G. Magnel, was an international pioneer. More than focusing on the technological challenges, the paper evaluates the ordinances of the German occupying forces and their effects on building activities, influencing the management of laborers, the availability of construction materials and imposing even a prohibition on construction activities.


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