On 24 October hundred international third- and fourth-year design students had come to Maastricht to kick off the first Cross Border Design Contest. The contest is the Province of Limburg’s bid to create an international showcase for talented young designers studying at arts academies in Genk/Hasselt, Düsseldorf, Antwerp, London and Maastricht. It will put the province on the map as a dynamic, cross-border region where tasteful design, creative entrepreneurship and innovation coalesce in a highly personal way. The ambassador for the Cross Border Design Contest is Ron Arad, an internationally renowned designer from Tel Aviv.
The contest is the brainchild of branding organisation Connect Limburg, high-tech tile manufacturer Mosa, interior design retailer Leolux, and the Maastricht Academy Fine Arts and Design (MAFAD). The contestants are students at Hochschule Düsseldorf-University of Applied Sciences, Luca School of Arts/MAD (Hasselt and Genk), CSM Central Saint Martins (London), the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, and MAFAD. They gathered on Monday to soak up inspiration at the Mosa Flagship Store Maastricht (located in the company’s old porcelain factory), where Mosa CEO Remon Veraart and Connect Limburg director Conny Moonen gave them a warm welcome. The programme also included a talk by Ger Koopmans, Regional Minister of the Province of Limburg, and a modern dance performance by Joost Vrouenraets & Mami Izumi.
A panel discussion between Leolux, MAFAD and Mosa representatives focused on design in Limburg. They emphasised the similarities between the Province’s regional mentality and the creative process that precedes a design. Both involve taking time out for quality and bringing together all sorts of different influences. The panellists also agreed that Limburg is a superb base of operations for those with international ambitions, because ‘Europe is right around the corner’. The discussion also clarified the relationship between craftsmanship and the creative industry in Limburg and its international environs. This is a vital element of the contest, as the students have been asked to draw inspiration for the piece of furniture they are designing from the quality and identity of Limburg as a ‘Little Europe’, a region that combines Dutch common sense and character, German efficiency, and French/Belgian joie de vivre. The people of Limburg have a talent for thinking internationally, acting accordingly, and playing about with borders – a talent that is coded into their cultural DNA.
With that idea in mind, the participating students will spend the next four months working on their design. The kick-off concluded with a master class during which the students were briefed on their assignment by internationally renowned designer Ron Arad, who has agreed to act as the ambassador for the Cross Border Design Contest. Born in Israel and a Royal Academician of the UK’s Royal Academy of Arts since 2013, Arad told and showed the students how he had created some of his works. He also gave them his unique perspective on the cross-border aspect of the contest, for example citing the many different materials that he uses from around the world. ‘Borders don’t matter’, he said repeatedly. His words could not have been a more appropriate starting shot for the Cross Border Design Contest.