Kortrijk is a medium-sized city of 75,000 people with a conurbation of 280,000. Located in the Flemish-speaking area of Belgium, not far from the French border, it is also part of the rising metropolitan area around the French city of Lille, which has about 2 million inhabitants. It is a leading educational centre for the region, hosting a campus of the Catholic University of Leuven and two schools of higher education.
Kortrijk is a wealthy city, with a low unemployment rate of 2-3% despite the economic crisis. Its economy is industry and service-based, with a long history in the manufacture of textiles and building materials. Small and medium enterprises have shown a capacity for innovation during the various textile crises and the city has developed a policy of innovative design. The city has become a design hotspot in Europe, organising the first Design Biennale Interieur in 1968. Today it has become a top event in the world of interior, product and service design. However Kortrijk is not part of the central ‘Flemish Diamond’ of Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels and Leuven, where the lion’s share of economic development is taking place. As a provincial town, it suffers from a persistent brain drain and an ageing population.
Kortrijk has a strong artistic tradition and is a centre for contemporary art collectors. Its three main arts organisations are the art centre Limelight, the dance studio Dans in Kortrijk and the visual culture festival Beeldenstorm. They are all in the former industrial heartland of Buda Island, which since 2002 has been developed as an incubator for creativity. The city wants to be a pioneer in Europe and launch a new way of thinking to connect the arts and economy for sustainable urban development.