The city of Dutch de­sign

Timeless Travels Magazine - - THE NETHERLANDS -

The Nether­lands is def­i­nitely one of my favourite coun­tries to visit. My vis­its so far (to Am­s­ter­dam, Delft, The Hague, ‘s-Her­to­gen­bosch) have not dis­ap­pointed and so I jumped at the chance to visit a new city: Eind­hoven, which lies in the district of Bra­bant.

This city is very dif­fer­ent to the oth­ers. There are no pic­turesque build­ings along canal banks, (although there is one older square in this vein), but in­stead one of the first things you see in Eind­hoven is the Blob. The Blob is a fu­tur­is­tic glass build­ing, shaped like - well, a blob. But what a fan­tas­tic piece of ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign it is - its glass pan­els curve in and out, re­flect­ing sun­light as they go.

And it is this build­ing which tells you that this is a dif­fer­ent city – be­cause it is all about Dutch de­sign, and the fu­ture – but fun­nily enough, this emerges from its past.

Eind­hoven’s his­tory

Eind­hoven is an his­toric city - it was granted its city rights in 1232 AD by Duke Hen­drik I of Bra­bant. At this time, it con­sisted of 170 house en­closed by a city wall, with a small cas­tle stand­ing nearby, ly­ing on the Dom­mel and Gen­der rivers. The city was granted the right to a weekly mar­ket which farm­ers from neigh­bour­ing vil­lages were obliged to come and sell their pro­duce at, and this mar­ket still con­tin­ues to­day.

The city lay on the trade route from Hol­land to Liège so it grew and pros­pered over the cen­turies, de­spite be­ing sacked by troops from Gelders in 1486 and de­stroyed by a fire in 1554. It was re­built by 1560 with the help of Wil­liam of Orange and dur­ing the Dutch Re­volt, the city changed hands sev­eral times be­tween the Dutch and Span­ish, un­til fi­nally be­ing cap­tured by Span­ish troops in 1583 and its city walls again de­mol­ished.

It be­came part of the Nether­lands in 1629, but it was the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion in the 19th cen­tury which gave it new a be­gin­ning. In­dus­trial ac­tiv­i­ties ini­tially cen­tred around to­bacco and tex­tiles, but it was the rise of Philips, as a light­ing and en­gi­neer­ing leader, that turned Eind­hoven into a bustling city. Ger­ard Philips came to the city in 1891 with his fa­ther and founded the com­pany. Af­ter a dif­fi­cult start, his younger brother, An­ton, joined the com­pany and he had a gift for sales. The com­pany ini­tially man­u­fac­tured light bulbs but in 1920 branched out into elec­tron­ics. As it grew, it needed ware­house space and hous­ing for all its em­ploy­ees, and the pop­u­la­tion of Eind­hoven grew from 5,000 to 100,000 from 1900 - 1930. Over 150 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties lived and worked in Eind­hoven and it was the cen­tre of the com­pany’s re­search and devel­op­ment.

The city was bombed a num­ber of times dur­ing WWI; in De­cem­ber 1942, and again in 1943, the Philips Ra­dio fac­tory was bombed by the al­lies, and much of the city was de­stroyed in large-scale air raids. In 1944, in or­der to al­low the al­lies to se­cure the bridges and take the city, it was bombed again, but it be­came the first city to be lib­er­ated in the Nether­lands. The re­con­struc­tion that fol­lowed left very lit­tle his­tor­i­cal re­mains and by all ac­counts there was lit­tle re­gard for its his­tor­i­cal her­itage.

In 1998, Philips moved from Eind­hoven to Am­s­ter­dam which left many empty ware­houses that needed fill­ing. And this is where the bril­liant idea and Eind­hoven’s fu­ture was born: the ware­houses made per­fect space needed by in­no­va­tive Dutch de­sign­ers. And so Eind­hoven be­came the cen­tre for Dutch De­sign. And this is what gives this city such a tremen­dous buzz to­day - ev­ery­where you look are in­no­va­tive shops or stu­dios that in­spire.

In 1998, Philips moved from Eind­hoven to Am­s­ter­dam which left many empty ware­houses that needed fill­ing. And this is where the bril­liant idea and Eind­hoven’s fu­ture was born: it has now be­come the cen­tre for in­no­va­tive Dutch De­sign...and this is what gives this city such a tremen­dous buzz – ev­ery­where you look are in­no­va­tive shops or stu­dios that in­spire

Mon­drian to Dutch De­sign

This year cel­e­brates the cen­te­nary of the De Stijl move­ment and the whole of the Nether­lands is cel­e­brat­ing with events un­der the um­brella of

From Mon­drian to Dutch De­sign. There­fore this is a per­fect time to visit Eind­hoven, as the city is the epi­cen­tre of Dutch De­sign and the home of the De­sign Academy Eind­hoven, de­signer Piet Hein Eek, Dutch De­sign Week and many more won­der­ful de­sign­ers and events.

De­sign here is all about fu­ture in­no­va­tion as well as artis­tic en­deav­ours. A walk around the city is de­light­ful as you will dis­cover things such as sculp­tured bronze chairs sit­ting ei­ther side of a bill­board, lamp posts in the shape of a heart, street lamps in the shape of tulips or a sub­way fea­tur­ing John Cleese’s Silly Walk.

Many of the shops are small, in­de­pen­dent con­cerns, show­ing off lo­cal artists and de­sign­ers. In the Heu­vel shop­ping mall, for ex­am­ple, you will find the Corner­store by Ci­ty­d­wellers where young en­trepreneurs can hire a space in the store to sell their goods. Across the way there is a stu­dio where young peo­ple can come and have a go at mak­ing their ideas a re­al­ity. Another shop, De­sign

Dany’s, sells in­no­va­tive de­signs, and not just Dutch ones. The owner, Dick de Bruijn, also points out that it isn’t all about young de­sign­ers; older, more well-known ones were young once. He stocks an Aladdin’s cave of dy­namic and stylish pieces, from kitchen uten­sils to porcelain.

As part of the Mon­drian to Dutch De­sign year, Eind­hoven is putting on a num­ber of events, in­clud­ing a walk, where you can dis­cover ten hid­den de­sign gems in the city. Other ini­tia­tives in­clude a bril­liant Van Gogh - Roosegaarde cy­cle route. In­spired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the cy­cle path forms part of the Van Gogh cy­cle route that con­nects his her­itage lo­ca­tions in Bra­bant, (which was his home area). De­signed by artist Daan Roosegaarde, Hei­j­mans (a Dutch con­struc­tion com­pany) has de­vel­oped spe­cial in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy, so that the path is il­lu­mi­nated by thou­sands of twin­kling stones, and is a must for ev­ery­one to see in the evenings.

A visit to de­signer Piet Hein Eek must also fea­ture on your itin­er­ary. Eek is a de­signer who spe­cialises in not throw­ing any­thing away and re­cy­cling to the ex­treme, and his fur­ni­ture is bril­liantly in­no­va­tive. His de­sign stu­dio has taken over some of the ware­house spa­ces va­cated by Philips, and here every­thing is

un­der one roof. Around the art stu­dio, there is also a show­room, gallery, ‘cab­i­net of cu­riosi­ties’, shop, and fan­tas­tic restau­rant (com­plete with in­door art dis­plays in­volv­ing cars).

Eind­hoven is also home to the Van Abbe­mu­seum, a mu­seum of con­tem­po­rary art which is putting on a spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tion: Van Abbe

and De Stijl, which started in June. The ex­hi­bi­tion shows works of art, ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign con­nected to the De Stijl move­ment. It in­cludes a scale model by the founder of the move­ment, Theo van Does­burg. of a cin­ema-dance­hall which was his first at­tempt to com­bine paint­ing, ar­chi­tec­ture, sculp­ture and de­sign in one sub­ject. His col­league, Piet Mon­drian, is also rep­re­sented in the Van Abbe col­lec­tion. The Mu­seum also has a col­lec­tion of modern and con­tem­po­rary art, in­clud­ing works by Picasso, Kandin­sky, Mon­drian and Chagall.

Every­thing about Eind­hoven is about art and de­sign - even the res­tau­rants and ho­tels. In need of cof­fee and cake one af­ter­noon we stopped at a café called Denf Cof­fee. With a very arty, min­i­mal­ist in­te­rior, what stood out in­stantly was the smell of cof­fee - and the huge cof­fee grind­ing ma­chine! We were told they were formed be­cause of an ‘in­ner urge to roast cof­fee in an ar­ti­san way and make qual­ity cof­fee by com­bin­ing knowl­edge, tech­nol­ogy and de­sign’. Who knew that cof­fee could in­volve such de­sign spec­i­fi­ca­tions too?

For din­ner one night we ate at Kaz­erne, where again, food, art and de­sign are one. Owned by de­signer An­nemoon Geurts, she com­bines fan­tas­tic food with sim­i­lar in­ter­ac­tive art in­stal­la­tions, which change two or three times a year. Her restau­rant started as a pop-up dur­ing de­sign week in 2006, but she was keen to show off the many tal­ented de­sign­ers in the city and be­lieves that by be­ing in the restau­rant, it adds an ex­tra layer to the en­joy­ment of the de­sign. We cer­tainly found this to be the case, espe­cially with one in­ter­ac­tive light sculp­ture that lit up as you moved. But the de­signs here are not just for art’s sake - there was a row of wooden pan­els which kept open­ing and this was a de­sign for a new type of ceil­ing fan. That was one of the as­pects that I loved about Eind­hoven: be­ing sub­jected to in­no­va­tive de­sign rubs off on you and make you feel young and cool (when you are

any­thing but) - if only they could bot­tle that feel­ing!

I never thought I could be as fas­ci­nated by light­bulbs as I came to be when vis­it­ing this city. They truly took on a whole new mean­ing and it was as­ton­ish­ing to think what had been achieved be­cause of its in­ven­tion. A whole city had flour­ished be­cause of it, and now in­no­va­tive art and de­sign was fol­low­ing in its wake. There­fore no visit to Eind­hoven would be com­plete with­out vis­it­ing the Philips Mu­seum. Even our ho­tel, the arty In­n­tel in the city cen­tre is con­nected to light­bulbs. It, too, has taken over one of the aban­doned Philips build­ings, in this case the ‘Mon­u­men­tal Light Tower’, where many of the rooms are based. This had been built by Philips to pro­duce and test light­bulbs and the ho­tel also houses art ex­hi­bi­tions in its foyer.

I found that af­ter just a short time in this fan­tas­tic city I felt re­ally in­spired and re­ju­ve­nated. But make your travel plans now - there are only a few months left to en­joy the spe­cial events that be­long to the cen­te­nary of Dutch De­sign - although Eind­hoven will al­ways be about in­no­va­tion, art and look­ing to the fu­ture.

Top: The em­po­rium at de­signer Piet Hein Eek (Image: © Visit Bra­bant) Mid­dle: Young Dutch de­sign on sale in Eind­hoven at the Corner­storeby Ci­ty­d­wellers. Left: Fig­ure made out of plas­tic con­tain­ers at the Piet Hein Eek stu­dio (Im­ages: © Fiona Richards)

Above: 18 Septem­ber­plein in the heart of the city (Image: © Nick Booke­laar) Be­low: A ta­ble from the Piet Hein Eek col­lec­tion, made from off cuts of wood

Im­ages from past Dutch De­sign Weeks. Left: 2014 - De­sign Academy Eind­hoven (Image: © Sjo­erd Eick­mans); Mid­dle: 2014 - De­sign Academy Eind­hoven (Image: © Boudewijn Boll­mann); Bot­tom: De­sign Academy Eind­hoven 2016 (Image: © Sjo­erd Eick­mans)

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