Zebrastraat has a chequered history – or is that striped? From the 1850s, one of Belgium’s first zoos was located in the area. Nothing is left of it, but the memory lives on in street names such as Elephant Street, Tiger Street, Okapi Street - and Zebra Street (in Dutch, Zebrastraat).
19th-century Ghent was a gritty working-class city where thousands of people lived in cramped, squalid alleyways known as ‘beluiken’. In an effort to remedy this, the city authorities commissioned the architect, Charles Van Rysselberghe, to build a bright and spacious housing complex where the zoo once stood. It opened in 1902 and was known as 'De Cirk' (the circus, in the Ghent dialect) because of its unusual design. The oval courtyard served as a playground for generations of working-class children. In 2003, the Liedts-Meesen Foundation had the run-down complex renovated, retaining its original architecture.