The Section D team recently paid a visit to Dutch Design Week for Monocle 24’s weekly design show. This was the last event in a summer that has been a particularly busy calendar for Section D. Whether its interiors or industrial design events in locations from London to Lisbon, you may have seen us in attendance at the fairs enjoying both the obvious and the obscure.
The Netherlands’ own such event takes place in Eindhoven, itself home to a symbol of globetrotting design technology – it’s the birthplace of Philips. As recently as 20 years ago, Philips’ local workforce numbered over 90,000 in Eindhoven. It’s hard to imagine what the city would have been like were it not for the influence of the company’s founders, father-and-son team Frederick and Gerard Philips, who created the first incandescent lamps in 1891. But manufacturing eventually moved east to China, and Philips now uses Eindhoven as a site for its research facilities.
As the company’s chief design officer Rogier Van Der Heide puts it – Amsterdam has the airport, Rotterdam has the docks, while Eindhoven is the “brainport”. And in a global economy where manufacturing will stay in the locations where labour and materials are cheapest, the Dutch’s investment in knowledge could well be a clever thought.
Strijp, in Eindhoven – the original home of Philips manufacturing – has taken on a new identity and the area is now a symbol of the city’s successful transformation. The former factory complex now boasts residences, workspaces for the creative industries, cafés, and places for leisure. During our visit, the area was alive with designers at the iconic Klokgebouw building and moving throughout the factory avenues. Strijp has successfully made the transition into a lively economic area – and with its turn-of-the-century warehouses, high ceilings, and four-metre high windows, it’s not surprising many favour the faded factory glory of Eindhoven’s past to the city’s more conventional business and residential areas.
Eindhoven hasn’t given up the ghost of its former self but has successfully adapted to modern demands, championing knowledge while creating commercial opportunities. It knows what its strengths are and the so-called city of light still shines bright for brand Netherlands.
Aled John is a producer for Monocle 24.