Everyone who has visited the city center of Eindhoven, must have noticed the central 18 Septembersquare and its iconic architecture. Most of the time the area is filled with a shopping crowd. Two international architects, Fuksas and Ponti, have given shape to the buildings that provide room for this consumer culture. Although it looks like a pleasant environment with attractive architecture, this architecture is being used as a tool to seduce consumers to buy products in their shops.
Currently our economy and even our culture is based on the capitalist system, which depends for a large extend on consumerism. (Van Raay, 1993) Skair (2010) defines: Consumerism is intended to make people believe that human worth is best ensured and happiness is best achieved in terms of our consumptions and possessions.
I, being a resident of Eindhoven who lives in the city center, visit the 18 Sepembersquare quite regularly. Occasionally I’m shopping, sometimes visiting the weekly market but mostly I just pass by. Currently each visit, I can’t help, but notice the amount of consuming visitors and the amount of shopping bags with labels of international fashion retailers that they are carrying. Therefore the effects of consumerism becomes clearly visible on the 18 Septembersquare.
However, on a large scale the region of Eindhoven is as well affected by consumerism. Eindhoven is the most internationally orientated big city of the Netherlands. (CBS, 2012) Many large international companies, such as ASML, Philips, VDL and NXP have their businesses in the Brainport region. (Van Gijzel, 2015) These companies benefit from the effects of consumerism, simply said: the more products they sell, the more profit they make.
Also the municipality of Eindhoven profits from these companies and therefore from consumerism. Eindhoven wants to promote itself as the Dutch capital of technology, knowledge and design. A more attractive city center was required, to attract businesses and (international) inhabitants, and along with it, an approved appeal of the Brainport area. Therefore technology-related products and design needed to become more visual in the city center. (Brouwer et al., 2010)
So in 1999 Studio Fuksas was hired by the municipality of Eindhoven to re-design the 18 Septembersquare. The Bijenkorf building was already in place and was designed by Giò Ponti. He was asked in 1964 to design “a charming piece of architecture, dedicated to the Ladies.” Many of the products sold in the Bijenkorf, were also being sold by other shops in Eindhoven. The aim was to design a building that convinced the consumers to buy the products in this department store. So he tried to create a high quality interior and exterior; his building had to look like a “box containing desirable things.” (Bosman et al., 2004)
In the new masterplan, Fuksas designed a new Piazza center. Which leans against the Bijenkorf and has a contrasting structure, while the former is a closed box, the latter is open and light. The Bijenkorf and the new Piazza center are connected with an enormous glass canopy supported by corten-steel columns. Two ‘blob’-like elements were placed on the 18 Septembersquare in order to establish an attractive square and most-likely to emphasize the technological character of the area.
Architecture & Consumerism
As I see it, architecture can be used to conduce consumerism. Not only on a large scale, such as the municipality of Eindhoven intended, but also on the scale of a single store. The luxury fashion house Prada for example hired acclaimed architects to design iconic stores for their label in globalizing cities. One of their iconic shops is the Prada Store in Manhattan, designed by Rem Koolhaas. Also in Tokyo a new shop was constructed, which was designed by Herzog & de Meuron. As Iovine (2003) quotes Prada’s CEO, Patrizio Bertelli:
“Architecture is the same as advertising for communicating the brand.”
In this case, architecture is merely being used as means of advertising. However, this is becoming a trend in consumerist architecture, as architect and design critic Heathcote (2003) stated:
“Just as museums have found that exhibits are no longer enough, shops have found that the brand is not enough. To keep the products fresh and in the public eye the shop has now to be a destination, a museum of product.”
In the world of consumerism, each shop needs that extra factor to convince the consumer to buy their products. Just as described in the case of Ponti’s Bijenkorf. Other buildings on the 18 Septembersquare, such as the Blobs and the Piazza Center, were not specifically designed for a one brand. However, their architecture can still enhance the product’s value.
To prove this, I started an experiment to demonstrate the relationship between architecture and consumerism. In this experiment, I asked random people in the city center of Eindhoven where they would rather buy their product: in a traditional store or in the Bubble. The participants had to assume that the products of both shops have the same level of quality and pricing. Unsurprisingly, the majority of participants (67%) answered that they would rather buy the product in the Blob-building. However, in case of luxury products this amount increased considerably to 81,5%. (Dijkink, 2015) So we can conclude that architecture and consumerism are correlated, especially in case of luxury products.
The Genuineness of the Public Area
But how about the public space surrounding these buildings? The Piazza used to be a popular skating place, but now it has been replaced by shops and skating is no longer allowed. (Van Haastrecht, 2002) Can the public 18 Septembersquare still be considered as a genuine public area, where visitors are not constantly being encouraged to spend money? I doubt it.
As a matter of fact, I experienced it myself when I visited the Piazza Center to take pictures for this article. While I was photographing the magnificent oval open space with its staggering voids, this ‘public’ area appeared to be not as public as I expected: I was send away by a security guard. Why? Because I was on private property. In other words; since I was not there to buy products, I was not welcome. And then it hit me: these architectural buildings may look beautiful and inviting, but in the end, it is still a smart marketing technique used to sell products. The genuineness of architecture itself can be questioned, since the effects of consumerism on the latter become more and more present. However, many of us (consumers) are not aware of that, and are still falling for the architecture shaped by consumerism…
Figure 1a: Klaver (2015) 18 Septembersquare, Bijenkorf and Piazza Center. Image retrieved from:http://klaverfietsparkeren.nl/nl/oplevering-18-septemberplein-eindhoven
Figure 1b: WAM (2011) 18 Septemberplein. Image retrieved from:http://www.worldarchitecturemap.org/buildings/18-septemberplein
Figure 2a: Domus (2011) Prada’s New York Epicenter (designed by Rem Koolhaas – OMA). Image retrieved from: http://www.domusweb.it/en/design/2011/06/02/states-of-design-02-brand-design.html
Figure 2b Thecityreview (2003) Prada Aoyama Building in Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, by Herzog & de Meuron. Image retrieved from: http://www.thecityreview.com/archnowv3.html
Figure 2c: Archood (2014) Prada store by Herzog & De Meuron. Image retrieved from:http://archood.com/prada-store-herzog-de-meuron/
Figure 3a: Dijkink, M. (2015) The Bubble. 18 septembersquare, Eindhoven.
Figure 3b: Dijkink, M. (2015) Traditional shop. Rechtestraat, Eindhoven.
Highlighted image on front page by Dijkink, M. (2015) Consumerism in Eindhoven. is a combination of:
Kruger, B. (1987) Untitled (I shop therefore I am). Image retrieved from:http://www.maryboonegallery.com/artist_info/pages/kruger/detail1.html
Hart, R., Maggi, M. (2011) 18 Septemberplein. Image retrieved from:https://www.igloo.ro/en/articles/septemberplein/
Bosman, A.H.J., Schippers, J.L., Pyckevet, G., Kerkdijk, G., van Dijk, K. (2004) “Een ensamble met grootstedelijke allure.” Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. Accessed on May 5, 2015.http://repository.tue.nl/581611
Brouwer, M., Kolk, v. d. A., Gerritsen, J. (2010) “Citymarketingstrategie Eindhoven.” Accessed on 23th May, 2015. http://www.berenschot.nl/publish/pages/688/citymarketingstrategieeindhoven-berenschot_1.pdf.
CBS. (2012). Internationalisation, Monitor 2012. The Hague/Heerlen: Statistics Netherlands. Page 117
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Iovine, J. (2003) “Forget the Clothes; Prada’s Latest Design Isn’t for Sale” New York Times. June 22. Accessed on May 31, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/22/arts/art-architecture-forget-the-clothes-prada-s-latest-design-isn-t-for-sale.html
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Van Gijzel, R. (2015) “De positie van Eindhoven in de wereld” Linkedin. May 28. Accessed on May 31, 2015.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/de-positie-van-eindhoven-wereld-rob-van-gijzel
Van Haastrecht, R. (2002) “Lastige skaters verbannen” Trouw. July 20. Accessed on May 31, 2015.http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/5009/Archief/article/detail/2785734/2002/07/20/Lastige-skaters-verbannen.dhtml
Van Raaij, F. (1993) ,”Postmodern Consumption: Architecture, Art, and Consumer Behavior” E – European Advances in Consumer Research. 1: 550-558.
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