Strijp-S and NDSM
‘Shed heritage’ is a post-industrial phenomenon I’ve seen in Stockholm (on the Eriksson site), Nantes (former shipbuilding yards) and Bordeaux (railway sheds). Vast temples to city-fringe manufacturing sit marooned on acres of blasted hard landscape, longing for the heydays when they were busy and useful. Having just visited Strijps R and S (Eindhoven) and NDSM (Amsterdam), I’m think I’m reaching ‘peak shed’. Two things to reflect on: 1 How do you achieve place (with its essential ingredient: intimacy) amongst epically-sized buildings and spaces? 2 Is the notion of a ‘campus’ a helpful one for modern business or living?
Strijp-S is the new hot district in Eindhoven, on the site of the former Philips Campus. Philips must have virtually owned this city: its 25-hectare former landholding with its muscular legacy buildings are an overwhelming presence. A public-private JV has gradually repurposed the brick monsters (modern start-ups seem to slot in very well) as well as the saw-tooth ‘hangars’ (good for leisure), and some more established firms are inhabiting other pavilion buildings on campus. Strijp R, the slightly primmer suburban sister, is very much worth a look. One of its ex-Philips sheds – Piet Hein Eek - achieves that magical intimacy within a huge volume. And I enjoyed the ‘relics’ of the radio and TV manufacturing process which weave through the (jolly posh/hippy) new suburban homes.
NDSM is a former ship building area in north Amsterdam, scene of spontaneous music events since the 80s and now operating multiple arts uses in its giant sheds. There isn’t time to do the area justice here, but I like what Kim Tuin (the project’s director) says: ‘there has to be space for permanent temporariness’. She knows she’s got battles ahead trying to combine resi and freewheeling artistic activity – something London’s Mayor is also keen to combine.
It’s the bits in between that aren’t working yet at Strijp-S. The green moments on these brutal concrete plains need to be lush and full of wildlife, and masses of people are needed from the off – Granary Square style – to create a buzz. There are plenty of caffs and other social infrastructure creating smoke, but not yet a fire: the flotsam of meanwhile accoutrements look slightly cowed by the surroundings. NDSM was busier. There’s something about the arrival by ferry which is just a bit more exotic, the open spaces are breathtaking in their size and textures, and the diversity of activity across the campus is extraordinary. But NDSM has had 35 years to get this fire going, and getting the real estate coals hot enough for the Argent cook-out at Kings Cross has been an equally long process. Patience is required, and a single-minded single mind, I think.
Interesting that the ‘campus’ concept seems to represent corporate success. I suppose it’s sheer real estate dominance: you take over all the land around you and make a quasi-community there, with schools, clubs, cafes etc. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Why did Philips abandon its operation in Eindhoven? It was in theory a future-looking business: electronics, communications, computers. Was it that the US and Far East took over this sector, giving rise to Google and Apple’s new ‘corporate campuses’ 6000 miles away? Philips’ land and spirit regenerated, Dr. Who style, via tech start-ups; perhaps one of those will be tomorrow’s Google, when that giant has finally reached the end of its productive life. Residential estates are often seen as campuses: big pieces of land creating a community and identity, but also a feeling of ‘lock-out’ to strangers – ‘am I allowed to walk across there’? Architects and urbanists sometimes fall foul of estate residents when they trot out their ‘permeability’ mantra. You take away my boundary, I lose my community.
3 Oh – and housing
New homes at Strijp-S come in both towers and townhouses, and for me are not nearly as confident as their brick antecedents on campus, with landscape again a disappointment. The exception is a 16 storey tower at the north west corner by inbo for Woonbedrijf Housing Association, which benefits from a hairy ground floor carpet with convivial seating, a pleasantly variegated brick and a few bits of judicious modelling. The prospective residents apparently specced out their homes on Facebook. Who knew. The new housing at NDSM looks very unpromising. I’ll just leave that there.