Words by Marie-Pauline Cesari

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discover a Dutch city for the first time, Eindhoven. I have heard of this city before going there, as there is a well-known Design Academy, but besides this information, I knew nothing about Eindhoven and I forced myself to not look for any further information about it, to be fully surprised during my trip. 

On my way to the city, I was dreaming of a design and industrial hub, a city where the architecture will mix Dutch traditional assets with a technological twist. I was thinking of a futuristic city, a bit dystopic, thanks probably to my childhood references, as I have been lulled by Enki Bilal’s fantasy. And I was right about Eindhoven. 

photography by Bobby Born

Since the 1920s, Eindhoven has been the center of the electrical and electronics industry. As the birthplace of the Philips company, the industrial tradition is still very much alive and continues to influence the culture of the city. By walking (or cycling) around the city, you can see that everything was built by Philips, for its facilities and especially for its employees. Philips was the heartbeat of Eindhoven, and the same goes for design and art today.

The city has indeed taken a shift over the years and has become not only the cradle of electronics, but also an important place for contemporary design and art. In addition to the Design Academy of Eindhoven, the prestigious design school, and the Van Abbemuseum, one of the country’s leading contemporary art museums, the city itself has become a hot spot for design and art. The city, with its architecture, cultural venues and traditions, bridges the gap between art and technology.

“erratic weather” by Moatik & Maarten Vos

Nothing has been thought of or built from scratch and, for instance, former company facilities are now used by the city to host cultural events. I was lucky enough to discover the city when the STRP festival was taking place.

The STRP Festival is a festival of art, technology and music that takes place every year in Eindhoven. It has been organized every two years since 2006 by the STRP Foundation, whose mission is to promote innovation, creativity and dialogue between art, technology and society.The festival offers a rich programme of contemporary art exhibitions, interactive installations, audiovisual performances, film screenings, lectures and electronic music concerts. This was the first activity I did when I arrived in the city, and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better introduction and glimpse of the essence of Eindhoven.

photography by Boudewijn Bollmann

The works presented explore the latest technologies, such as virtual reality, robotics, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. The aim of the festival is to push the boundaries of artistic experience and to critically reflect on the impact of technology on society. And believe me, it was an intense journey that I will remember. Immersed in the basement of a former telephone company building, you discover a chaotic symphony of puissant artworks with powerful messages.

The festival took place in two other places, the city mall and the church. The latter was my favorite and closed my first day in the city. And what a closing. The church was indeed the setting of a magical work of art, a mechanical cannon that was making smoke rings. A fog orchestra that I could still remember the muffled but soothing sound. The location, of course, added a strong symbolic dimension, and the reflection of the sun in the church’s stained-glass windows created a mystical spectacle.

The Kazerne Hotel, a unique, innovative and original hotel with an exquisite restaurant and a beautiful art gallery
photography by Ruud Balk

On my second and final day, after a relaxing night at the Kazerne Hotel, I had lunch at the Lobby Restaurant, at Strijp-R. Crafted by artist Piet Hein Eek, the Hotel and restaurant are built in an old Philips factory from the 1950S. Eek uses the space also for his shop, his gallery but especially for his atelier, which the curious can see from the whop. It’s an artistic place, that feels like eating and walking through a huge work of art, surrounded by design supplies and beautiful materials.  My last afternoon in the city was full of beautiful encounters, as my meeting with Helen Milne, Lab advisor at New Order of Fashion, or even my visit at the MU Hybrid Art House where I discovered the fascinating exhibition, mixing sciences and art, entitled “Beyond Borders and Binaries”. 

Piet Hein Eek, photography by Nick Bookelaar
Lobby Restaurant, Piet Hein Eek ©

New order of fashion is an international platform for fashion talent. By encouraging sustainability through innovation and experimentation, their goal is to lead the fashion industry transition to fully circular practices. 
photographies by Marie-Pauline Cesari

To end my last day in the city, I took a walk through the industrial era of Strijp, and I must admit that I had never seen such a place. Surrounded by old industrial company buildings, nature has reclaimed its rights and the ivy branches blend in perfectly with the pipes of the buildings. This creates a futuristic, terribly contemporary scene. The Radio Royaal restaurant is a perfect example of this beautiful alchemy of design and industrialization. Housed in a former Philips energy warehouse, you can enjoy a delicious dinner amongst impressive and massive old machines.

(left) Strijp-S
(right) Radio Royaal restaurant
photographies by Max Kneefel

This last view of the city perfectly sump up my impression of the city: Eindhoven is the perfect crossroads between contemporary design and art. By embracing the city’s industrial past and capturing its architectural heritage, Eindhoven has become over the years a dynamic and innovative city which offers a unique cultural experience. 

I can’t wait to get back there in October for the Dutch Design Week, the largest annual design event in Northern Europe, which promises to be as interesting as spectacular. 

Many thanks to Tim Verleijsdonk from Eindhoven365, who welcomed me and guided me through this lovely city.