Philips Light Tower Lofts
Lighting shines on the Eindhoven skyline
The old headquarters of Philips Lighting is a building typical of its generation. Functional was perhaps the best way to describe this concrete giant in the centre of Eindhoven. Until diederendirrix was approached to transform the building into an apartment complex with lofts for expats. By anodising the profiles in a golden finish, the office was given a golden glow and will soon be the majestic focal point of the Emmasingel district. ‘A statement among the various concrete hulks,’ according to Paul Diederen. What’s more, the large windows offer the residents a feeling of luxury and a spectacular outlook over the city and its surrounding area.
Consequently, the building was stripped down to its core in 2015 and transformed one year later into an apartment complex with 616 lofts and penthouses. ‘Because of the activity and knowledge centres in and around Eindhoven, there was a great need for flexible, affordable housing for employees,’ Lee Foolen of real estate company Foolen & Reijs Vastgoed explains. ‘In general, these are highly educated people who embrace an urban lifestyle and value quality. Thanks to the luxury look and ditto level of finish, we are able to offer them exactly that.’
Just a couple of years ago, the Philips site in the heart of Eindhoven was a place to be avoided at night. ‘The grey buildings and desolate car park with high fencing made the area flat and sombre. In short: it could definitely use an injection of life and sparkle,’ Paul Diederen of architectural firm diederendirrix says. ‘Also, the location was in need of condensing. There is great demand for smaller housing units in the centre of the City of Light and this office provided the possibility for transformation.’
Because of the activity and knowledge centres in and around Eindhoven, there was a great need for flexible, affordable housing for employees
Immediately after completing his Architecture studies, Lee Foolen began working as an independent project developer. The first few years were spent predominantly on converting residential properties into student accommodation and apartments. As early as 2004, he carried out his first office transformation. In 2012, the first major transformation project took place: the redevelopment of a 13,000 m2 office block into housing. As an independent risk-bearing project developer (operating under the names of Foolen & Reijs Vastgoed and City Pads), the company has transformed over 100,000 m2 of offices to date and currently has 250,000 m2 in development, with about 4,000 residential properties being created in Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Utrecht.
Because the area is involved in the redevelopment, it is not just the former headquarters that is undergoing a facelift, but the Emmasingel district, too, is given a whole new dynamic. On the side of Mathildelaan, a low-rise apartment complex is being built and a new tower block will also be erected. While at the back of Philips Lighting, space has been created for a park. ‘A transformation should also give to the city, add something,’ Diederen clarifies the vision. ‘By literally bringing the Gender – a small river flowing under the site – above ground in Emmapark and by reserving space at the base of Philips Lighting for hotel and catering facilities and a supermarket, it becomes a lively spot where everyone is welcome. This gives extra value to the city, but also adds to the building’s living quality.’
Because of this golden glow, the building completely blends into its surroundings, with the small differences in colour of the anodised aluminium windows really bringing the façade to life.
Paul Diederen (1959) graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the Eindhoven University of Technology in 1986. Since 2005, he has worked with Bert Dirrix under the name of diederendirrix architecten. The architectural firm from Eindhoven has renovated, among others, the Nedinsco factory in Venlo, transformed Witte Dame in Eindhoven into a multipurpose building and designed Musa in Rotterdam. In addition, Diederen lectured at the Academies of Architecture in Rotterdam, Tilburg and Arnhem and at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He was adviser of the Stimuleringsfonds voor Architectuur, is a member of the Commissie Welstand en Monumenten Rotterdam, and supervisor of De Erven Vleuterweide Utrecht. Since 1 June 2016, Diederen is professor of Transformational Design at the Architectural Urban Design & Engineering unit of the Faculty of Architecture at the Eindhoven University of Technology.
The plans of the T-shaped building reveal long corridors with apartments on both sides. ‘The building is relatively deep,’ Diederen explains. ‘To make the most of the natural light available, we replaced closed façade parts with large 3.5 by 4 metre windows. This also ensures that the vides (open spaces) found in some of the apartments get enough light. But it’s all about the experience: the power of the glass almost makes you feel insignificant in the environment, allowing you to fully experience it.’ This feeling is reinforced by windows that open vertically. ‘Only the penthouses have balconies, the lofts don’t. But to create something of an outdoor feel, the middle part of the windows can slide right the way down. The bottom part then serves as a balustrade.’
Façade specialist Wijmoco fitted the window systems with a special motor including finger-safe control and weatherstrip to prevent rain coming in when the window is ajar. ‘They were then tested at Reynaers in Belgium for wind and water resistance,’ Richard Wijkamp of Wijmoco Geveltechniek says, who apart from having to deal with technical challenges also had to contend with a tight schedule. ‘The façade had to be closed in just four months and fitted with over 543 vertically sliding windows and more than one hundred large horizontally opening windows. Thanks to the strict schedule, intensive collaboration and coordination with building contractor Stam + De Koning and weekly deliveries, we managed to pull this off.’ What’s more, the façade construction company was also able to accelerate the process somewhat at the construction site. ‘The windows were fitted into the façade with an extra powerful glass vacuum lifter. Screwing them down straightaway and allowing the middle window to come down offered instant fall protection and no scaffolding had to be put up.’
The legacy of Philips
Eindhoven is situated in the south of the Netherlands and became a major city during the industrial revolution. It takes its name, City of Light, from the settlement and growth of Philips. A large number of buildings that are now part of Dutch industrial heritage were created by the light-bulb factory. Because of their location in the centre of the city, many have now been repurposed. Witte Dame which dates from 1931 – and served as a radio factory – now houses the library and Design Academy, and Lichttoren (1921) – where light bulbs used to be tested – is now an apartment complex.