The Heerlen confluence : porosity, integration and separation

Sukanya Krishnamurthy, Daniek Reijnders, Joost van Gorkom, Thijs van Tetering

Research output: Other contribution


Historically the river Rhine and the Meuse have acted not just as frontiers of separation between Germany to the east with Belgium and the Netherlands to the west, but over the centuries has also developed into a core-region of central Europe. The spatial, cultural and political landscape of where the Rhine and the Meuse merge forms a delta that is a melting pot of oral and architectural histories, cultures, people, and ways of life. Heerlen, located within this geography, experienced its heyday in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, at the peak of its mining past. The urban morphology of the city is reminiscent of a mining town facing inherent shrinkage, with attempts to challenge this phenomenon. Heerlen is currently facing serious socio-economic challenges, and to respond to these challenges the authors of this paper dissect the morphology of the city to discern the causes of its current predicaments, dynamism and its future potentials. By looking at the city and region as a mosaic of borders and languages, uniqueness of geography, industrial and mining activity, agriculture and people, the paper explores the inherent quality of place, and possibilities for active engagement of residents with their city. With economic developments being one of the key drivers of effective planning, the authors through this paper put forward planning and design ideas that can improve urban aesthetics and social cohesion of a shrinking city. The authors envision that shifts in traditional planning tools through small incremental changes such as urban agriculture and bottom-up initiatives of re-use are needed to examine the new realities and challenges facing the city of Heerlen, especially on issues of central city retail vacancy. This research acts as a platform where the authors approach the landscape surrounding Heerlen as a confluence of various structural, historic and cultural changes that are rooted in what we call as “porous lines of separation and integration”.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSociété Internationale d´Ethnologie et de Folklore (SIEF)
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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