During the 19th century Belgium invested heavily in the defenses of the young state. These defenses played a role throughout all major events of 19th century Europe, like WWI and WWII. Nowadays we have forgotten these structures. They are the often overlooked testament of our modern history. 

I want to capture images of what remains of these amazing structures. These incredible buildings full of character deserve our attention. Paying attention to our history hopefully helps us to avoid making the same tragic mistakes that led to the loss of many lives. I’ve been returning to these sites for two years now. I want to share what I have found on this journey with you. 
WHY were these Fortifications built?
When French president Louis Napoleon (‘Napoleon III’) did a coup d’état in 1851, the young Belgian state was warned. Only days after the coup, Louis Napoleon issued a decree which entailed no less than the annexation of Belgium. Louis Napoleon was a fierce believer in the idea of France’s ‘natural borders’ (frontières naturelles). The supporters of this idea believe that France’s north border should be at the Rhine river, which would include Belgium and a large part of the Netherlands as the French territories. As a reaction to these events the first - temporary - fortifications were made around Antwerp. 

After years of political debate, the Belgian military command finally decided to transform Antwerp into the centre of the national defense. Antwerp became the National Redoubt, the infrastructural cornerstone of Belgian defensive strategy or the ultimate fallback position for government and army. This decision led to an immense project of constructions around the city. The ministry of War estimated 1 million m³ of brickwork was needed and 13 million m³ of soil had to be moved. Several thousands of workers and soldiers were involved in the manual labour over the years to come. The construction of the defense system was a huge undertaking for the young Belgian state.
WHY I make Images of these structures?
One evening I decided I wanted to make some new images the next day. But I felt like I was always going to the same places. I felt like I wasn’t creating anything exciting or new. That evening I opened up Google Maps and I was drawn to the ring of Forts around Antwerp. Like many citizens of my city, I had a vague idea what they are, but nothing more. I decided I would go and take a look. 

While I didn’t achieve to make any decent images that first day, I knew I wanted to explore this further. I found these old structures oozing with character. I found an interesting path forward for my photography. Here, right under my nose, are these ancient buildings intertwined with the history of one of the largest conflicts Europe has known. This will be the subject that I shall work on in the future. 
What’s left today?
While the forts were largely identical, it doesn’t feel like this when you visit them. Each fort had a large moat around it. Almost all the forts have at least covered a part of it. The result is that - today - you will find different remains of the forts at each site.

The forts were numbered from I to VIII. Today one fort (Fort I) has completely disappeared. It had to make way for a large shopping mall (Wijnegem shopping center). Another one (Fort VI) only has the inner structures left. The site is mainly used for the University of Antwerp (UA). The current state of the other forts differs greatly, where the Forts IV and V can be seen as the best preserved ones. 

I've been going to the forts for two years now and every time I go I encounter something new. I will write more stories as I add new images to this project.
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