In the past, whenever anyone wanted to buy a car in Eindhoven, they would flock to Van der Meulen Ansems – or the VDMA for short – on the Vestdijk. The garage was once the place to go for every mobile Eindhoven resident, but is now suffering from years of neglect. And that’s not the plan nor the intentions for this huge building complex; the council and several entrepreneurs have already discussed the possibilities for this prime location.
But up, until now, it’s all been in vain.
One side blames the council’s lackadaisical approach, the other blames the complexity of the situation, but, in the end, the result is the same: to date, the VDMA has not been given a new and permanent lease of life.
But anyone who gets the chance to wander through the building comes out with a long list of creative ideas: the property isn’t just large, it’s also full of surprising nooks and pieces. Plenty of opportunities for beautiful banquet halls, exposition and creative spaces, offices and meeting areas.
This belief also caught the attention of Arjen Heus from the Eindhoven-based creative agency Franky Cherry. Heus works under the belief that a connection between the creative and commercial worlds can bring added value. He draws his inspiration from existing urban concepts in Copenhagen, Brooklyn, Waterloo in Canada and Amsterdam: all places where, according to Heus, different worlds are connected to each another. And that’s exactly what he wants to achieve with the VDMA. “It then forms an ecosystem where entrepreneurship, technology and design are made accessible to the public through sports, hospitality and culture.
Heus highlights the need for reconciliation and unity. “This brings people closer. We need each other to approach the challenges of today and tomorrow with an open mind. I believe we must create environments where different worlds can come together so that we can learn from one another. Environments which do not arise from fear, but from a shared openness.”
In order to sharpen all of his ideas, Heus delved deep into the complex’s history. One after another black-and-white photo pops up on his iPad. We see long-dead employees driving the (also long-gone) T-Fords onto the wooden driveway in the huge garage. But we also see the typical glass roofs and murals that are still there today.
“We just have to do something here, it’s too good to go to waste. This is the ideal property for my ideas of connecting people, so I’ve drawn it all up.” It all started with the idea of offering urban sports activities in the VDMA as a way to meet people. Slowly the idea grew into a typically Eindhoven theme of technology, design and knowledge.
Heus: “Eindhoven is a city in motion, a city with knowledge, a city with creativity and diversity, a city with vision and a city with ambition. The world looks to Eindhoven and what we can do in the fields of technology and design. I want to show how Eindhoven distinguishes itself as a smart city and keeps technology and design in its scope, but also how Eindhoven encourages and facilitates the support of culture, sports and entrepreneurship. I want to surprise the people of Eindhoven as well as visitors. With this innovative plan, I want to turn up the spotlight on Eindhoven.”
Heus wants to create his own management plans in collaboration with the council and a number of private sector companies, “but most of all with the people of Eindhoven themselves!” He is convinced that it will ultimately become a healthy, profitable operation.
Heus talks about a “semi-public urban total concept” and a temporary permit should allow something structural to be built. “In this particular development area we are drawing attention to a variety of start-ups, self-employed people and foundations whose goal is the city’s cornerstones of technology, design and knowledge. To communicate this to the wider public, we are using hospitality, culture and sports in the fitted green space.” Heus explicitly wants to involve vulnerable groups, such as the youth, unemployed and refugees, in the operation. He has already enlisted (“and got!”) the help of about fifteen people and organisations to get things done.
Heus already knows exactly how he will fill the property, although he has always listened to the people and institutions that have already expressed their ideas about the VDMA. “Maybe together we can make it even better.”
Heus will make use of the existing functions of the building for the new interior: “We will restructure the area while maintaining the current facilities for the international community. And we will integrate whole sports facilities as a part of the activities halls.”
Heus also intends to create a place for the history of the area, as well as the match factory which once stood there (and which, according to some people of Eindhoven, gave rise to the name of the City of Light) and the VDMA garage. “Example of names for the area could be Matchbox, Match Factory, Area VDMA. Of course we are carefully consulting with Eindhoven365 and the council to ensure that we find the right connection to the city marketing in Eindhoven with the branding and the long-term communication campaign. But it will definitely happen: This is Eindhoven. This is a match. This is Matchbox Eindhoven.”
So what can we expect from Arjen Heus’ plans for the VDMA?
- 2 semi-public halls for activities / events (DTW, DDW, workshops, etc.).
- A multi-discipline workshop / work places for 10-15 design studios.
- A high tech start-up lab for 10-15 tech start-ups.
- A large hospitality / conference space.
- Multi-functional sports cages.
- A Dojo (tai chi, boxing).
- An expat centre.
- A foodcourt.
- A park.
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