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Mapping the Nieuwstraat/Neustraße

The Neustraße/Nieuwstraat is a two-kilometre-long border street located in both the German town Herzogenrath, as well as in the Dutch town kerkrade. Once located in the middle of the lordship Rode, this street only became a border street after the Congress of Vienna (1814 - 1815), when European borders were redrawn. Consequently, it became a stage for World War I and II, when a two-meter-high barbed wire fence served as a physical barrier between the two towns. In 1991, the municipalities of Herzogenrath and Kerkrade signed a declaration of intent—affectionately titled ‘The Friendship Manifest’—in which they committed themselves to encouraging cross-border cooperation in order to contribute to the realisation of a united future for Europe. The first cross-border project initiated was the redesign of this particular border street. In 1994, ‘the last wall of Europe’—the one in the Neustraße/Nieuwstraat—came down, and a year later the street was reopened as a shared or European street - a symbol for European integration.

The Neustraße/Nieuwstraat is the starting point for this research project which will combine fieldwork with an artistic research practice in order to generate a type of knowledge that is otherwise hard to capture. It looks at European integration, where good intentions, theories, policies and subsidies meet with the lived reality ‘on the ground’. By doing so, It aims to generate a better understanding of the way the European project—spearheaded by the European Union—interacts with the more spatially fragmented processes of European integration that were already underway before 1945. This project thus offers an everyday situated perspective on European Integration in motion.

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Relevance & Impact

By bringing together—through the use of a fieldwork map—the aforementioned layers (cross-border integration efforts and European integration), this work will offer a more complex understanding of the European project. This process, which can be repeated at different sites, will allow policy makers at all levels to use ‘local knowledges’ to inform their work at the European level.   

Research Methodology

This project will bring together public documents—archival records, council minutes, press articles, resident oral history testimonies, planning applications, documentary films, blog articles, pictures—related to the border street: Neustraße/Nieuwstraat. It aims to open up these documents and processes—which can be difficult to access, and sometimes even read—because of bureaucratic, academic, or legal language—and will juxtapose them with the local and intimate scale of the everyday reality of the street, as well as its inhabitants. It will do so through the ongoing collaborative production of maps that will organize all this information spatially.

Our shared aim is twofold: (1) methodologically, making public our act of research through the use of maps that order the collected (spatial) information in such a way that allows policy and the outcome thereof to be considered simultaneously; (2) in order to generate a more complex understanding of this shared or European street as a both the outcome of the continuation, or preservation even, of this cross-border region, as well as a ‘product’ of the European project.

Mapping The Nieuwstraat/Neustraße is an initiative of PhD researcher Eline Schmeets of Studio Europa Maastricht in cooperation with PhD researcher Marlies Vermeulen of Dear Hunter. The project is made possible by Stadsregio Parkstad Limburg, Charlemagne Grenzregion and Zuyd Hogeschool, Lectureship SURD.

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