01 July 2022, 14:00
West of the Netherlands. Village Reconstruction after the War

This story differs a little from the others. It is not about the city, but about the countryside. Namely, about a part of historical region of Flanders (now Zeeland Province, Netherlands) although its bigger part currently belongs to Belgium.

In October 1944, these territories were de-occupied, however it took another half a year to liberate the rest of the country in May 1945. Due to its small population, local destruction was not that great if compared to the cities. However, up to 96% of the buildings were damaged or destroyed in some villages. Dutch architecture historian Pauline K.M. van Roosmalen spoke how this area was restored.

The reconstruction was used as an opportunity to improve villages and deal with past shortcomings. For example, before the war, farmers' lands were scattered across the region. They were regrouped so that one person's plots stayed close to each other. Owing to this fact, the peasants began to breed more cattle and grow more crops. Household problems were also solved: water, sewerage, gas, and electricity were provided to houses. Previously, in some villages, families did not even have a bathroom. In addition, it was necessary to change the location of the streets in some settlements. Now, they are straight and spacey enough to host weekly fairs.

The reconstruction process was rather bureaucratized. Three institutions were responsible for it at the national level: the newly created Ministry of Reconstruction and Public Housing, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Supply. The government commissioner played the most important role in setting the priorities and deadlines of the programs. Funds were allocated only when the final plan for reconstruction was ready. And it had to be agreed at all levels: from farms and municipalities and even to the government commissar and ministries. First of all, it was related to the cost of the project: whether everything in it could be afforded, or something should have been removed for the time being.

The reconstruction in the region was monitored by supervisors, one head for several villages. They coordinated plans and approvals at various levels. There were also architects in the villages who worked to ensure that the projects were similar, but not too much, because then the overall architectural ensemble would become boring. There are villages that chose to become more modern, and those that wanted to recreate their previous style.

Materials for construction were in short supply, so resources had to be optimized as much as possible. Therefore, three main types of standard housing were created for the villages, depending on the number of people in the family. However, it did not affect the speed of reconstruction so much. The first plans were developed immediately after the end of the World War II, but they were being implemented up to 1963.

Listen more about the region reconstruction at Youtube.

We also advise you to read our stories on reconstruction of CoventryWarsawBerlinHiroshima, and Le Havre.

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