Like the North-East in England and Zollverein, Essen in Germany, the Belgian former mining area of Winterslag/Genk is using creativity as a tool to transform the area in an innovative, sustainable and qualitative way and to generate new approaches to education, economic development, culture and tourism.
The initiative, which is called "C-Mine" (the “C” refers to creativity), includes:
The educational activities are centred around the media and design academy (site in Dutch only) which is now planning an experience design lab to integrate its various educational functions and increase their value for innovation and regional economic development [disclosure: I was born in the area and have an advisory role in the planning phase of the lab]. The educational mission of the academy and the site in general is aimed at innovative concept and product development. The academy will provide bachelor and master programmes as well as company training.
The design lab (see above) is also at the heart of C-Mine’s strategy for the development of a creative knowledge economy: to provide new input to creative and innovative project and product thinking, to be an incubator of new ideas for the local business community, to attract new design companies and stimulate a design approach within existing ones, to help spin off new companies, and to be a creative project space for entrepreneurial organisations.
A brand new culture centre will connect artistic creation and production to the development of a creative economy, with each providing added value to the other.
Tourism and recreation
C-mine will be developed as a meaningful experience site for all kinds of visitors, combining its historical mining heritage – including its impressive machine halls – with new creative and design activities.
The city has recently completed a comprehensive master plan. Many of the facilities will already be operational by 2007 and 2008. A more complete overhaul of the site will take place thereafter. The architectural studio 51N4E has been charged with the redesign of the existing buildings and the development of new infrastructure. The project is financed in part by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund.