Eindhoven, a Dutch city of a little more than 200,000 people located in the southern province of Noord-Brabant, has been the home of global electronics and lighting conglomerate Royal Philips Electronics since the company's founding in 1891. Eindhoven's development during the 20th century as a leading industrial center for the region is inextricably linked to Philips' presence. The historical relationship between Eindhoven and Philips is not without tension, however. According to Rik van Stiphout, lighting program manager for Eindhoven, “We know that something particular brings us together, but we also want to stand on our own feet. It has to do with our larger history.” Eindhoven has managed to both retain its individual identity while also avoiding the all-too-common fate of many industrial-age cities—shuttered factories and declining urban centers. Eindhoven has harnessed the symbolic richness of its shared heritage with Philips and is using light to place the city at the forefront of contemporary design and urban planning as well as to bring greater functionality and pleasure to the region's inhabitants and visitors. Van Stiphout is a driving force behind the city's remarkable urban lighting. To describe Eindhoven's approach as simply a “lighting master plan” seems insufficient.

Van Stiphout's holistic “future vision” for Eindhoven includes not only street lighting and the illumination of key urban landmarks but also luminous events, advertising, art, and interiors and exteriors. His vision calls for the illumination of ideas and information and, importantly, a respect for darkness (the city will begin requiring dramatically reduced advertising light in the later evening hours by mid-2008), and application of the most sustainable practices possible. Eindhoven uses light to improve and unify public spaces and public life as well as to create a vital 21st-century image for the city.

While light has been a part of Eindhoven's history since the founding of Philips in the late 19th century, only recently has urban lighting gained such a prominent role in the visual identity and experience of the city. In 2004, the city council asked van Stiphout to rewrite the existing lighting master plan, then 9 years old. The highly technical (and outdated) document, according to van Stiphout, “only focused on the public lighting of the city.” In discussions with then-mayor Alexander Sakkers (who served 2003–07), it was decided a new approach for Eindhoven was needed to address (and market) the unique identity of the city. In particular, Sakkers wanted to call attention to the importance of having a company like Philips in Eindhoven and to the role of the city as a “Brainport”—leading to a brand campaign to promote the region's leadership in technology and research. Van Stiphout, realizing that it no longer was appropriate to just “rewrite” the existing master plan, composed “a future vision for Eindhoven, with respect to light, and how we can be different from other cities in the Netherlands, Europe, and even the world.”

The project began with analysis of all aspects of lighting in the city to define a set of goals for the next decade. With this research, van Stiphout identified six categories of light: urban lighting (streets, public areas), buildings and objects, art (indoor and outdoor), events and festivals, information, and advertising. However, van Stiphout cautions that while these classifications are helpful in thinking about managing city lighting, the best solutions arise when these separate entities are addressed in combination and the urban environment is approached holistically. “You need categories to keep a clear overview, but classifying different kinds of lighting doesn't mean that they are working together intimately and harmoniously,” he says. An example of this kind of thinking can be found in Eindhoven's requirement that commercial projects incorporate signage and luminous advertising into the building form so that it enhances the architecture and presents an integrated composition to the streetscape or skyline. The program has been successful with several collaborations between architects and lighting designers. One of the most popular buildings to benefit from this initiative is the cultural center, Parktheater—a product of the combined efforts of light-artist Herman Kuijer and architect Arie van Rangelrooij. Kuijer created a luminous backdrop for the center's logo by installing a wall featuring light-emitting diode (LED) technology into a recessed section of the upper façade. Van Stiphout credits the innovative nature of urban lighting in Eindhoven to the openness of municipal leaders. “Our city council is not afraid to do things wrong—they see the need of our city, as a Brainport, to develop quickly and to serve as a laboratory for many things,” he explains. “With that kind of council, you manage to be very ambitious.”

The belief in the power of light, to both improve public life and signify Eindhoven's stature as a technology leader in the region, can be seen throughout the city—often in surprising locations. For example, in Eindhoven's Demerpassage, a shopping area located beneath an elevated railway near the city center, lighting designer Tom Veeger worked with Philips to develop customized LEDs to create atmospheric color patterns that change in intensity throughout the day—bringing liveliness to an otherwise undistinguished shopping arcade. After 11:30 p.m., motion sensors at either end of the passage allow the lighting to react to and follow passersby, playfully engaging users after hours. Another example is the new High-Tech Campus Viaduct, an important link between the nearby technology district and the highway that van Stiphout believes will become the definitive symbol of 21st-century Eindhoven. The viaduct, completed this year, is sheathed in two layers of illuminated glass panels displaying, a network of brain cells in a subtle 3-D effect. With glowing nerve “tissue” wrapping the bridge, it embodies the concept of Eindhoven as a Brainport and symbolizes the many minds at work on the nearby campus.

Eindhoven's city council is keen to promote its many new lighting projects and to create a highly recognizable identity for the city. To that end, Eindhoven became a city member of the Lyon, France–based organization Lighting Urban Community International (LUCI) in 2005 and hosted the annual LUCI meeting in November 2007. Seeing an opportunity to have the attention of the international community, Eindhoven opened its second annual GLOW festival (gloweindhoven.nl) on the closing night of the 2007 LUCI meeting. GLOW, in many ways, is an updating of the traditional light festival in Eindhoven, Lichtjesroute (Route of Lights), which began in 1945 to commemorate the liberation of the city at the close of World War II and continues to this day as a 22-kilometer trail of illuminated ornaments. While this festival is nostalgic and much loved, the city council wanted a more progressive event to express Eindhoven's seriousness as a leading “city of light.” GLOW, begun in 2006, is a forum for light in art and architecture that opens the city to an international cadre of artists, architects, and lighting designers. This past year, the projects ranged from whimsical installations, such as Anne Bureau's repurposed dumpster turned into illuminated outdoor seating, to large-scale architectural explorations, such as Alain Benini and Christophe Cano's “Waterfalls of Light,” which transformed the façade of a three-story building facing Eindhoven's canal with 40,000 miniature lights. A popular and critical success, GLOW 2007 was attended by more than 50,000 people from across Europe and beyond, bringing international attention to Eindhoven.

Eindhoven's vision for the future is a major element in the city's most recent redevelopment project, Strijp-S, Philips' former industrial campus northwest of the city center. Some of the conceptual ideas represented in the project were also themes discussed during the City.People.Light symposium in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in May 2007. Ideas that emerged from the meeting will continue to be translated into real projects. For the new mixed-use district, Philips Design is developing a public lighting system utilizing energy-efficient LEDs without traditional pole illumination. The to-be-determined technology will debut in Strijp-S by 2010 and will be (at this writing) the first of its kind in use in the Netherlands and perhaps the world. Strijp-S is a perfect example of the symbiotic relationship between Eindhoven and Philips, the company that brought the city into the 20th century. In this project and many others, Eindhoven has managed to maintain a healthy and stimulating relationship with Philips and has shown great ambition and ingenuity in developing a modern image that celebrates its history and looks to its future as a city of innovation.


PROJECT | City of Eindhoven lighting master plan, www.lightcity.eu
CLIENT | Department of Urban Development and Management, City of Eindhoven
ARCHITECTS, LIGHTING DESIGNERS, ARTISTS | Herman Kuijer; Arie van Rangelrooij; Tom Veeger; Gustavo Avilés; Migual Chevalier; Jan van Munster; Alain Benini; Christophe Cano; Achim Mohné; Victorial Coein; Klaus Obermaier; Jakub Nepras; Nan Hoover; Anne Bureau; Zevs; Hans Peter Kuhn; Magdalena Jetelova; Casa Magica; Waltraut Cooper; Edith Schuster; Mona William; Sueheyla Yetiskin; Ziegler; Ulrike Brandi; De Waag; Tom Groll
PHOTOGRAPHERS | Dijdel & Co., Claus Langer, Norbert van Onna, Leon Verlaek, as noted