An atlas describing a radical new approach on the identity of the municipality, based on historical events and linked to similar cross-border regions, thus embedded within existing identities. By extrapolating, We proposed seven themes and realizable projects (scenarios) that both explore and strengthen the already slumbering identity. These projects can be executed by the municipality in collaboration with all local and regional governments, organizations and entrepreneurs, also proposed within the atlas.
In such, it is both a guide in strengthening identity and a concrete step-by-step guide on setting up cross-border collaboration.
The assignment & starting point
Commissioned by the municipality of Eijsden-Margraten, we mapped the shared values and differences between this part of the ‘Heuvelland’ region and the cross-border counterpart: the Belgian regions of Voeren and Herve. The goal of this project was to find opportunities for cross-border collaboration on topics that seem obvious but also to search for opportunities that – up till now – haven’t been considered, because there simply isn’t enough knowledge from what happens at the other side of the border.
Eijsden-Margraten is a municipality situated in the very south of the Netherlands, more specifically in the southeastern part of the province of Limburg, and was formed in 2011 from the former municipalities of Eijsden and Margraten, that both consisted of a number of separately situated villages. As a result, the nowadays Eijsden-Margraten municipality consists of 28 villages and townships, with a population of about 25.000 in total.
In its south, Eijsden-Margraten is extending up to the most southerly part of the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. In its west, the Meuse river forms the frontier of both countries. The presence of this border is the immediate cause of this research project. Dealing with border issues since decades, the population of Eijsden-Margraten shows a great ability to deal with them, depending on urgency, personal interests or economical motives. On a political level, it is more difficult to collaborate on topics that seem obvious. Not infrequently, annoyance rises because issues that could be easily solved, are being troubled by political interests that do not deal with pure content or, and this happens a lot, decisions aren’t long-lasting and sustainable because with every election, the interests change. The constant strive for cross-border collaboration and ironing out difficulties across the municipal border was, and still is, one of the key ambitions of Eijsden-Margraten.
Within this framework, the Atlas Nouveau-Limbourg offers a perspective on the municipality of Eijsden-Margraten and the surrounding region. It marks an area in which, independent from municipal- provincial- or national boundaries, a certain similar identity or attitude can be found. The basis of this region, although not limited to a specific geographical area- is the area in which the former duchy of Limbourg lies. From about 1020, the Limbourg Castle served as the residence of the Counts of Limburg. The duchy was, and the region still is, multilingual, being the place where Dutch, French, and German dialects border upon each other and coexist at their geographical extremes since medieval times. Its northern and eastern borders are the approximate boundaries of the modern state of Belgium with the Netherlands and Germany, at their ‘tripoint’. The eastern part, which includes Eupen, is the administrative capital and northernmost part of the modern Ostbelgien: the German-speaking community within Belgium.
The result: Atlas Nouveau Limbourg
Within the Atlas Nouveau Limbourg, Nouveau Limbourg is described as an attitude, rather than a geographically defined region. It is a ‘what-if’: what if the state borders didn’t exist, how would this area look like? how would certain developments take place, and what would the unique selling points be? Without aiming at removing current state borders, it offers another approach on cross-border collaboration and helps seeing opportunities. Above all, it’s highlighting the shared values and qualities of the different regions belonging to it and as such, it frames all attempts for cross-order collaboration: this is the common ground and context in which collaborations can take place and which decisions can be based. It is exactly in this light that this atlas can be read. It offers an extensive description of the region and attitude Nouveau Limbourg, of which the current municipality Eijsden-Margraten is the core, and extrapolates the shared characteristics and qualities into seven case studies as concrete examples, founded in nowadays’ reality, to which applying this attitude can lead.
Hunting ground: Eijsden-Margraten municipality and its cross-border neighboring regions
Hunting period: March-June, 2017
Client: Gemeente Eijsden-Margraten