ESCH cecilia bengolea deary steelA European success story, the culture of capital scheme promotes the diverse cultural life of cities undergoing regeneration, while boosting their tourism and economy. Luxembourg’s second city Esch-sur-Alzatte shares the limelight this year with Kaunas (Lithuania) and Novi Sad (Serbia).

With a rich programme of events, the city is a perfect destination for a daytrip or a weekend escapade. It offers a surprising mix of industrial heritage, contemporary arts and plenty of off-beat activities with a popular appeal.

Esch2022 focuses on extending celebrations to neighbouring municipalities as well as eight across the border in France. Together they are testimony to a story of immigration, melting-pot cultures and post-industrial reflection on creating an inclusive society for the future.

It may now be one of the richest nations in the world, but tiny land-locked Luxembourg was for centuries a poor farming country. The discovery of iron ore in its south in the mid-19th century, transformed the Grand Duchy into an industrial powerhouse, paving the way for a 100-year period of prosperity.

Luxembourgers call this the red rock region, or De Minett, a name that persists today in honour of the ferrous ore that dominated the landscape. Another legacy is a multicultural population following waves of immigrations, principally from Italy and Portugal.

It’s this diversity that’s at the centre of Esch2022’s slogan Remix Culture with four focus areas: Europe, Art, Nature, Yourself. The programme aims to question our identity in the digital age, spotlight sustainable development and offer new perspectives of the European vision.

While Luxembourg’s wealth now depends on its international finance sector, the country still relies on attracting an international population. In the rebirth of its southern region, the culture capital plays a key role; adding a new lustre now that the glint of the steel industry has long faded.

The shining symbol of Esch2022 is Belval, the former steel plant on the outskirts of Esch that has metamorphosised into one of the best examples of new towns in Europe. Its overhaul followed an international architectural competition to redesign the decommissioned site.

Preserving its heritage has been key to the project. Soaring above the urban development are two landmark blast furnaces, one refurbished and open to visitors, the other a skeleton. A towering red-brick brick chimney and numerous industrial relics pay tribute to the hard graft of steel production that finally met its demise in the 1990s.

Overseen by Fonds Belval, the site has undergone massive investment to create a modern community, encompassing a university and research campus, commercial centre and residential area. Concert venue Rockhal attracts music fans beyond Luxembourg’s borders and a new railway station connects the town to Esch and France. 

There’s a homogenous style to the development, building blocks in black, grey and red that echo the colours that once dominated the working site. The shells of its old buildings were retained, their original identity reflected and reinterpreted in their new design.

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Source: The Bulletin - The platform for Belgium's international community