I’m proud to present the book I co-wrote with street art expert Tristan Manco and with Dries Van Melkebeke from Cultuur Ghent: a 220-page tribute to the abandoned cement factory ‘Betoncentrale’ in Ghent, Belgium, which had been the city’s graffiti paradise for over a decade.
From my first time in Ghent, I was charmed by the former cement factory in the old harbor area where graffiti writers and street artists painted every day. There was always someone at work at Betoncentrale, and the atmosphere was so chill and playful that often, after painting, artists stayed longer to chat over a beer.
Here is what I wrote about this magic place after my first visit back in 2018:
“Most of the decadent charm of the area is due to several beautiful examples of industrial archaeology, including the former cement factory Interbeton Ghent. The factory was built after WW2 and, since shutting down in 2009, has been taken over by graffiti writers and street artists.”Myself, 2018
Betoncentrale is where ROA practiced his trademark skill of fitting his animals into a given surface, eventually gaining worldwide recognition when the photo of his hanging bird with the neck all over the Betoncentrale building went viral.
Betoncentrale was also the playground of Ghent’s legendary DHL Crew, whose members first hit the factory when the cement company was still in business, the place where CeePil first tried out his ‘glitching’ technique, and where Bisser realized the final project to complete his animation studies.
On Betoncentrale’s walls, Bué The Warrior’s happy characters sit next to Klaas Van Der Linden’s skeletons, Resto’s cartoons, Samor’s mutants, and Keep Punching Joe’s screaming faces. Local and international artists have left a sign on its crumbling walls, making it a crucial spot for the evolution of Ghent’s street art scene.
When I was asked to write a book that would be a tribute to such a place, I couldn’t be happier! The original assignment was to write the artists’ bios, but I wanted the book to transport the reader to the playful atmosphere I had experienced when I visited Betoncentrale. I wanted to freeze in time the feeling of creative freedom and camaraderie that genuinely characterized Betoncentrale by making the proverbial walls talk and then preserving, in this book, all the crazy adventures that the artists shared with me.
Artists featured in the street art book “Concrete Playground”:
- DHL Crew
- Bué The Warrior
- Arrf The Wolf
- Cee Pil
- Gentuza Collective
- Klaas Van der Linden
- Keep Punching Joe
Thank you so much to everyone involved in this street art book, to the artists for sharing with me their anecdotes, to the photographers who documented graffiti and street art at Betoncentrale over the years, to Tristan Manco for the excellent foreword, and to Dries Van Melkebeke from Cultuur Ghent for entrusting me with this project and for inviting me to Ghent in the first place. Published by Lannoo.