Placemaking in the Urban Living Lab Heerlen and Aurora flat courtyard intervention: learning towards urban vitality in vulnerable and cultural diverse neighbourhoods.

Abujidi, N., Blezer, S., Sap, H. (2022).
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The neighbourhood GMS in Heerlen-Noord suffers from a stigma as a result of the local
historical context, i.e. the coal mines closure in the 60s and the consequent social urban
challenges ever since. In fact, the neighbourhood is one of the 16 Dutch
neighbourhoods that area assigned by the National Government as neighbourhoods
that need extra focus to livability and its socio-economic urban challenges, such as
energy poverty, low literacy or cultural diversity (Ministry BZK, 2020). One specific large
social housing block of 228 housing units in GMS is the Aurora flat, owned by the local
housing association Wonen Limburg. Aurora flat is ‘known’ in the area, mostly form
negative perspective, i.e. due to the former army-drug related nuisance and current
stigmatization because of the cultural and migration diversity of residents. Recently,
Wonen Limburg 1) renovated the Aurora flat energetically and 2) painted the largest
mural in Europe on it with the Spanish art collective Boa Mistura to boost the social
cohesion of the neighbourhood and Aurora flat and to connect with the local municipal
policy to embrace murals as a method to enhance the social quality of the urban
environment. Besides, it adds to the spirit in Heerlen in its search to re-invent its local
meaning, place identity and distinctive qualities for the city to overcome the faced urban
challenges due to its historical development.