organised meetings with residents, experts and other stakeholders on behalf of the municipality of Heerlen to help think about the City as a Playground.
Themes were: Sport & Exercise, Science, Art & Culture and Residents & Users of the City. During the workshops, we took participants around a number of locations in Heerlen. Together, we discussed ideas for improvement.
Fidelio Arts and Culture has presented an inspiration book following the above meetings. Download that inspiration book via this link. Ten projects were subsequently realised on behalf of the municipality of Heerlen:
1. Giant chess. On Sunday afternoon, 24 April 2022, a life-size chess set was festively inaugurated at Promenade 2. Everyone who wants to play chess is cordially invited to play with it during shop-opening hours. With this open-air chess board, Heerlen wants to encourage encounters and create more experience in the city centre.
The chess game was realised in cooperation between the municipality, Vereniging Stadstuin and bookshop Van der Velden-van Dam. At the latter, anyone who wants to play chess can borrow the large chess pieces during shop opening hours, and return them afterwards, of course. In addition to the large chess set, the Stadstuin association has provided a table with two extra chess boards. Jordy Clemens, alderman for culture: "In a city centre, everyone should be able to enjoy themselves, from young to old. It should be so much fun that you want to stay longer. That's why we design our city centre as a contemporary playground in places. And it doesn't stop at this chess board, we are working on even more fun things."
2. Knight statues. The medieval Landsfort Herle forms the heart of present-day Heerlen: a small, walled and encircled fortress that consisted of the Pancratius church, a few houses and the Schelmentoren tower. In early July 2022, the municipality placed two stone knight statues in the city centre, One knight stands on the Schelmenhofje opposite Poppodium Nieuwe Nor, near the Schelmentoren tower, the other knight stands in the Uilestaat near the exit of the parking garage. It stands near the Moors' Corner, where Moorish warriors were supposedly buried during the 80 Years' War.
3. Mini libraries. As part of The City as a Playground, the municipality of Heerlen has placed colourful Mini Libraries at four locations in the city centre. The idea is that residents and visitors to the city can use these Mini Libraries free of charge. People can take a book out of the cabinets and put another book in them themselves. The project has been made possible through cooperation between the Beta House on Wilhelminaplein, Kakauw on Oranje Nassaustraat, Van der Velden Van Dam bookshop on the Promenade and De Boekensteun on Akerstraat. A number of volunteer 'librarians' have been appointed to take care of changing books and managing the lockers. Heerlen municipality is very happy with the participation of those involved. A fine example of 'Together we make the City'!
4. Green Witnesses. The Green Witnesses tell special stories about Heerlen. What if trees could tell stories? At seven locations in the centre of Heerlen, special trees tell the story of their experiences at that spot. Through pavement tiles with a QR code that can be scanned, visitors are taken into the story of the tree. With Green Witnesses, residents and visitors of Heerlen get an entirely new interactive experience in the form of a walk. Green Witnesses is a creation of sound artist Mike Kramer.
5. Urban Buildering. Freerunning and building can be done anywhere! In Heerlen, there are several routes in the city centre. Skateboarders discovered back in the 1950s that you could also use the city as a 'playground'. Urban sports make the city livelier, invite social interaction and moreover, exercise is healthy. With the help of top climber Rasjel Nilwik and freerunner Koen Heijnen of Team NL, new building and freerunning courses have been mapped out in the city. One can find the locations on the map. Of course, you can also look for the best places to build or freerun yourself. Go on a creative and sporty exploration and use the city as a playground. A fun start is at the climbing grips on De Morenhoek!
6. Feet off the floor! You can do so on the Morenhoek square in Heerlen-Centre. Passers-by are invited to dance in the public space. The 'Voetjes van de Vloer' project consists of five buttons around the tree. The buttons have different colours, representing five different musical styles. Press one of the buttons and you will hear music from Rock and Roll to Polka.... something for everyone. Painted footsteps can be seen on the ground. By following the footsteps, you will automatically start dancing! The concept was devised by Fidelio Arts and Culture and realised by Marq Claessens Theatertechniek in collaboration with dance school Swing-Inn.
7. Street furniture by Rob van Acker. The artist from Atelier Ijzerwerk designed playful street furniture especially for The City as a Playground on which you can sit, hang, climb, clamber and lie down. The cheerful furniture invites you to play with it. In the centre of Heerlen, on the terrace of Schunck is one on the side of Pancratiusplein-Zuid and on Bètaplein is another. For the City Garden on Promenade 1 in Heerlen city centre, Rob created a special design consisting of two playful pieces of furniture. The mint-green steel tubes form a nice contrast to the wooden planks used by the designer. He also prefers to execute the works Rob van Acker designs himself.
8. Zootrope D'r Bickel. On Stationsplein, diagonally opposite the cinema the Royal Theatre (at the bottom of the Maankwartier escalators, there is a so-called zoetrope. The zoetrope D'r Bickel based on an idea by Lanka Kalmijn (21), student of the Communication and Multimedia Design course at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, and realised in collaboration with Relim-Metaal, is the last work of art placed in this series of The City-as-Playground. A bickel (Limburgish) was a sickle or chop, a tool used to loosen coal in mines in the early years. A bickel is also a go-getter, a hard worker and thus, in the case of this artwork, a reference to the miner. When you turn the zoetrope around, you can therefore see through the cracks a miner making chopping movements! The zoetrope, invented in 1832/1833, is one of the first animation devices for viewing moving images. The device is based on a stroboscopic principle and can rightly be called a precursor of film.
9. Two Floorals. The floorals designed by Stefan Thelen, alias Super A, looked back at Heerlen's past and gave a glimpse of its future plans. The first flooral was a compass, pointing to the cardinal directions in the city where elements from different eras can be found: the Roman era, Landsfort Herle (the Middle Ages), the Mining Period and the present. The second flooral looked ahead to the municipality's future plans for the Promenade and the Bongerd, using 3D-effect water and green elements. The floorals were on temporary display.
10. Trim course Maankwartier. Together with gym Cleverfit, a working group of the Friends of the Maankwartier has designed a trim trail in the Maankwartier. The course is simple in design, causes little inconvenience, but offers a lot of physical exercise! Actually, the disadvantage of always having to walk uphill at the Maankwartier is used as a sporting advantage by going there to trim! The City as Playground has listed the Maankwartier trim trail. Click here.
Heerlen's city centre has changed visibly in recent years. These changes have benefited the city's appearance. At the same time, partly due to digitalisation, the city centre is becoming less of a regional shopping town. The cultural offering is solid and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city every year. The next step is to also make the outdoor area a place of meeting. To keep the city centre attractive for residents and visitors, the liveliness of the public space needs a boost. Stimulating a high-quality residential climate and establishing the city centre as a place to meet and where there is something to experience every day will create new visiting motives. The municipality of Heerlen wants to realise this through the concept 'The City as a Playground', by adding interactive installations in the city centre. These installations underline the city's image, are artistic, frivolous and creative and both children and adults are actively engaged and amazed. The installations connect and relate to the local context and spatial environment. In addition, consideration should be given to the 'software', activities and interventions that positively enhance the stay and experience.
You can stay informed via:
A photo impression of the workshops:
Thanks to the photographers: Jos Reinders, Mike Kramer, Luc Lodder, Jonathan Widdershoven en anderen