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ir. Eugène Franken is an architect and works in the disciplines architecture, urban planning and landscape on current socially relevant spatial tasks.

The Dutch Design Week. Help! A few thoughts on the immersive days during the 20th anniversary edition. It always takes me a while to get into it because the mesmerising non-stop nine-day show with endless inspiring exhibits always has something different to offer. It takes a while to pick out the relevant signals from all the static.

So I found myself one early Sunday morning, cycling through a completely deserted Eindhoven on my way to the excellent coffee at Fifth NRE for a Talk about the Future of Cities. Moderated by ArchDaily, founded only 13 years ago and already the world’s most visited architectural website by their own admission. The Talk turned out to be a classic talking heads format where an architect, an engineer and a developer spoke for quite some time before sitting on a sofa together to do it all over again in brief.

Contact sport

I learned that there are no English words for verdichting, maakbaarheid, maatschappij en porties bitterballen (roughly translated as: densification, manufacturability, society and portions of Dutch butterballs –deep fried balls of ragout). That having a home cinema is not as great as it is cracked up to be. And that actually every company should be a B corp (a force for good). This, by the way, only really concerned one of those three. Not entirely by chance the most interesting one. I always think of the best questions afterwards. Like the fact that we are not gaining any new insights when it comes to the future of cities. Yes, landscape is number 1, sustainability, circularity and identity are important, and people are the soul of the city. But how do we go about it then? It turned out once again that innovation is a contact sport. It is not helped by elitist frivolity in the form of marketing. A point for improvement for DDW22.

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Things are very different at the 65th anniversary of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), the host of the DDW which is also celebrating its jubilee. Top scientists in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), biotechnology and many more very topical areas are presenting themselves in special ways. With disclosures. They place their research ruthlessly under the magnifying glass, reflect on the impact it has on society and name some discomforting dilemmas. Fantastic! A scientific environment that communicates interactively and still manages to be entertaining


Just like former mayor Rob van Gijzel, he still hasn’t lost his touch. As enthusiastic as ever during a debate about Smart Densification. Which, of course, turned out not to be about smart densification at all. After numerous speakers who were saying things like: ‘I whipped up the powerpoint presentation in the train’ or ‘I’ll summarise my one-and-a-half hour lecture in fifteen minutes’, followed by a fast-forward through a cacophony of slides and side-notes. More points for improvement. If only we could enjoy a well thought-out lecture given behind a lectern with just one picture.

‘Eindhoven should expand the Brainport model from the economy to the social and other domains as well, and strengthen the city by doing that. Because on their own, the parties are just too weak’. ‘The municipality cannot do it alone and neither can the business community’.


Also interesting was the observation that there is currently no question of densification, but that we are actually experiencing the negative consequences of spatial shrinkage. So we have to densify the existing city. ‘It has to happen on the 88 square kilometres of Eindhoven city’ Hear hear!

The DDW also spawns unexpected encounters. At the pavilion, which is dedicated to a new culture of construction that is actually very old, with some beautiful and effective examples of biobased building materials, I talked to the brand-new government architect Francesco Veenstra about the relationship between the Randstad region and Eindhoven, the EHVXL association and ways to socially invest in increasing the value of the city in the future. It was prompted by a tweet. What is your paradise?

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Bert Overlack, Eveline van Zeeland, Eugene Franken, Helen Kardan, Katleen Gabriels, Carina Weijma, Bernd Maier-Leppla andColinda de Beer, Innovation Origins tries to figure out what the future will look like. These columnists, sometimes joined by guest bloggers, are all working in their own way to find solutions to the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good.  Here are all the previous articles.

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