In 1929, Philips (both company and family) built the Philips Recreation Building (next to the stadium), which was converted in 1935 to become the Philips theatre; after yet another renovation in 1968 – especially in the vernacular – it was always known as the POC, the Philips Relaxation Centre. Eindhoven was a company town, which certainly shows in the name of the Philips Jubileumhal (Jubilee Hall, 1951). This hall was built next to the POC for an exhibition to mark the 60th anniversary of Philips and was frequently used afterwards for various purposes such as sports events, Christmas choirs, theatre and circus performances, the children’s festival of Philips Wonderland, business meetings and more. From 1994, the components of the POC were demolished as the company withdrew from the socio-cultural function of the city.
Since 1964, the people of Eindhoven and the surrounding countryside can visit Parktheater for all kinds of stage productions and, since the early nineties, the Muziekgebouw, predominantly for classical music. What was and is sorely lacking, though, is a central point where many people could meet regularly to enjoy their free time. A building with walk-in function where a mix of functions could be enjoyed, offering both the possibility of producing things individually as to engage in communal programmes. The fragmentation of the cultural field hit Eindhoven hard and quite clearly lingers on today. Residents and visitors of all sorts tend to visit the the city centre area with great enthusiasm, but mostly to either shop and dine, or go to a performance (film, football and the like).
What we often hear from expats is that they do not know where to go or, when it is that things are programmed that are potentially interesting to them. In various ways, the ‘Expat Hub’ function (one-stop shop), the Spouses Programme, the various cultural parties’ programming, information about the hospitality and catering business and companies employing expats do not logically come together. Not in an information sense, but certainly not physically. Many knowledge workers’ partners feel unseen, locked in, and there is hardly any place for them to meet without the immediate need to order something, never mind spacious enough for your stroller.
In our country, a lot of experimenting has been going on with the design and shape of so-called community centres (e.g. those based on the Kulturhuset concept), but it seems to have been more of a success in in rural areas rather than in cities. The starting point, however, is almost always the same: how can we bring together leisure functions in an attractive and symbiotic way, such that users do not get lost in plethora of things on offer? Here in Brainport, there is no clear (proud and trusted) place where you’ll know there’s always something going on and where you’ll always leave well informed; where you can make your choices from there and where you will have taken note of the people, places and events that matter to you. Or where you might just be surprised and where spontaneous encounters happen you would not have thought possible beforehand.
It therefore seems to me high time to install/erect an Eindhoven Community Centre, open 24/7, welcoming to all, where you will find a cafeteria to get some food and coffee, where there are corners to meet or to work, where the tourist information board is located, and Studio040 local media, where exhibitions , lectures, debates, concerts and festivals are held. It should blend into the existing functions in the city, not overlapping with existing enterprises but complement and connect, it should be a place where everyone can feel welcome. It would combat isolation, promote intercultural exchange, inform, invite, connect and offer a platform for creativity.
I personally would love to actually cover over the market square, creating – with a beautiful open design – a living Web as a real heart of the city; the former V&D building would also have been a very appropriate location. Saint Nicholas, Carnaval, the Sugar Festival, the Festival of Lights, the Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving, the Week against Bullying or September 18 (liberation of the city in WW II): locals and expats would always know that in, around and from the ECC there would be always something to do and you would never leave empty-handed. And on a management level, the city of Eindhoven and the surrounding countryside would have finally something they would be able to agree upon less slowly (also in terms of commitment and funding), as, after all, everyone will benefit equally.