Ostend suffered heavily during the Second World War. All that was left in 1944 was a destroyed city, in ruins. Prominent buildings like the city hall, the Kursaal, the main post office, the hippodrome and the fish mine, as well as many picturesque houses along the coast, were razed to the ground. Not only that, important decisions with regard to urban planning made before the war were rejected. After the war, the then mayor Henri Serruys embarked on the reconstruction of his city.
The liberation on 8 September 1944 once again gave the municipal council the opportunity to put Ostend on the map with regard to international tourism. In 1945 architect Arnold De Vos was appointed municipal architect and the official starting signal was given for the reconstruction. He and J.J. Eggericx, who was appointed councillor for urban planning, drew up a new urbanisation plan for Ostend.
The exhibition presents a picture of a severely damaged city that was expected to quickly regain the allure of the ‘Queen of Seaside Resorts’. Nevertheless, the exhibition ‘Destruction and Reconstruction: Ostend in 1944 - 1945’ is much more than an architectural exhibit alone. Visitors are given an overview of the many construction activities, introduced to the many key figures who helped make Ostend great again and shown how the city underwent a tremendous development within a brief timespan. This makes Ostend the first city in Belgium to present an exhibition on this scale on the theme of reconstruction. It is a not-to-be-missed journey through an important part of the history of Ostend, which the exhibition has made more palpable than ever before.
Curator of the exhibition is Marc Dubois, who was awarded the Ultima Architecture Prize in 2018. He is supported by a research group composed of Norbert Hostyn, Erwin Mahieu, Virginie Michils, Claudia Vermaut, Gregory Boite and Martine Meire.
Guided tours of prestigious Ostend buildings will be organised concurrently with the exhibit. There will also be activities especially for children, such as an interactive scavenger hunt, in which they can participate during the museum’s opening hours.