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Philips' legacy: from innovation to architecture

What Eindhoven would have looked like without Philips remains a mystery. What we do know for sure: the Philips family certainly left its mark on the city. And on the rest of the world too. From the most ground-breaking Philips inventions to old factory buildings with creative new uses: this is Philips' legacy!

Philips' most luminous inventions

Philips is a major Dutch technology company. Originally based in Eindhoven, Philips made a great impact on the (back then) small city throughout the twentieth century. And over the past 130 years, the company has come up with quite a few clever gadgets. What important inventions do we have to thank them for? Discover a small selection here.

Next level light bulb

In 1915, Philips developed light bulbs filled with the gas argon. Previously the bulbs were made in a vacuum. By filling the bulb with argon, the filament lasted longer and burned brighter. The light bulbs weren’t super environmentally friendly yet, but it was a step in the right direction.

Safer x-rays

In the 1920s, x-rays were not very safe. Especially for medical personnel, who were regularly exposed to the dangerous radiation. That’s why Philips came up with a metal casing for the x-ray tube that largely blocked the radiation: the Metalix.

Radio Philips

Cozy street lights

That yellow-orange light that street lamps emit? Yep, also a Philips invention. In 1931, they came up with the Philora: a sodium gas discharge lamp. With that typical orange glow.

Clean-shaven heads

An invention that’s sure to have saved us a lot of shaving cuts: the Philishave. In 1939, they developed the first electric shaver with a rotating head.

TV experiments

In 1948, Philips broadcast the very first live television broadcast in the Netherlands. It was only received by a handful of televisions in and around Eindhoven. Mainly in the living rooms of Philips executives. What was the entertainment on 'Philips Experimental Television'? Singers, flower arranging, news reports, children's programs, feature films, a soccer game, and even the occasional advertisement. Announced in turns by a former radio announcer (then working in Philips' advertising department) and a Philips secretary. 

The cassette tape

A Philips engineer and his team developed the first cassette tape. In 1963, the first prototype appeared. With this small tape, suddenly anyone could put together their own music collection, create radio programs, or record and distribute a message.

Better chips

Philips also had an important role in the wonderful world of computer chips. In the 1960s, they developed a pioneering technique (LOCOS: Localized Oxidation of Silicon) that made the chip-making process much more efficient.

Home video’s

In 1971, Philips launched the first Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) for home use.

The wide-spread use of energy-saving light bulbs

In the early 1980s, Philips began mass production of a special kind of lighting: the energy-saving light bulb. Later, in 2009, Philips and a few partners developed an even more energy-efficient variation: the LED lamp Luramic.

The good old CD

The compact disc was the love baby of Philips and the Japanese electronics company Sony. This 1.2-millimeter-thick disc was introduced in 1982. The CD ensured that we could store and listen to music digitally for the first time. A revolution in the music industry. 

3D skeletons

In 1998, Philips discovered that it was possible to create 3D X-ray images using a C-shaped arm that rotates around the patient. From then on you could get a really good look at your broken arm! A small comfort, but still.

Philips de Jongh Park opening 1949

The Eindhoven innovation mentality

Nowadays, oldskool light bulbs and cassette tapes belong in museums. Philips' heyday in the City of Light is far behind us, gathering dust in twentieth-century history. Philips' headquarters even relocated to Amsterdam in 1997.

Yet Eindhoven is still the glowing center of innovation and technology. In the Netherlands and in the world. Think of TU/e, a university that attracts heaps of international talent every year. Or ASML (okay, technically in Veldhoven), the global star of the semiconductor industry. We managed that alright without Philips, didn't we? Well, not quite.

Hungry for brains

In a way, we have Philips to thank for all those big brains at TU/e. In the mid-fifties, the company was in need of more well-educated workers. For all those new inventions, of course. The university was founded largely to meet that need. When it was first founded in 1965, it was still called Technische Hogeschool.

Philips spin-off

Not many people know that ASML is a kind of Philips spin-off. The chip machine maker came into being in the 1980s as a collaboration between Philips and ASM International. Together they wanted to bring a Philips chip machine to market. Today, ASML is one of the fastest-growing companies in the Netherlands, with a billion-dollar turnover.

High-tech hotspot

The High Tech Campus wouldn’t have existed without Philips either. The tech hub (consisting of 260 companies) once began as Philips' R&D location. Now the area along the A2 motorway in Eindhoven is the ultimate hotspot for high-tech innovation. On a mission to become Europe's most sustainable campus.

Philips stadion

The first light bulb factory, the Philips Museum, and De Witte Dame 

It all began on the Emmasingel, in the city center. There, Philips' first light bulb factory opened its doors. This small factory gave Eindhoven its nickname Eindhoven, Lichtstad, or City of Light!

The modest light bulb factory used to be the tallest building in Eindhoven. Its chimney towered high above the city. That same chimney now houses a permanent work of light art. Private Light by artist Titia Ex looks like a luminous cap, high atop the chimney. A little light that subtly draws attention to the very beginning of the Philips adventure.

The White Lady

Later, when more and more light bulbs had to be made, the factory moved across the road. Philips had the iconic De Witte Dame (The White Lady) built as their new factory building. Today, De Witte Dame is a multifunctional building for design, art, knowledge, and technology. And one of Eindhoven's most iconic and instantly recognizable buildings. De Witte Dame symbolizes the changes Eindhoven has gone through over the years.

The Philips Museum

Since 2001, the small, old light bulb factory opposite De Witte Dame has been a national monument. And also the home to the Philips Museum. In the museum, you can experience the story behind the company first-hand. You can see the role Philips played in important social changes with your own eyes. First with electric light, later with radio, television, and finally in the digital age.

In 2011, the Philips Museum underwent a major renovation. In the process, the historic building received a new glass front. Inside, you can still see the original old equipment used for making the light bulbs.

Green, green Eindhoven 

Eindhoven is one of the greenest cities in the Netherlands. Why is that? Because Philips wanted healthy, happy employees. Frits Philips believed in the beneficial effect of plants and trees. He wanted his factory sites to be designed so that his employees would get a healthy dose of green on their way to work and back home. 

Frits actually played an active role in this: he collected trees during his many travels and had them shipped to Eindhoven. This way, he not only ensured a nice view for his employees but also more biodiversity in the city.

Philips is even hidden in the names of a few parks. That's not for nothing. Those parks were once owned by the Philips family before they donated them to the city.

For example, the Philips van Lenneppark was given to the city of Eindhoven by the Philips - Van Lennep family in 1964. The park is located between the highway to Tilburg and Poot van Metz. 

In 1920, Anton Philips and his wife Anna Philips de Jongh gave a park to the municipality. You can find the Philips de Jongh Wandelpark in the Strijp district, near Landgoed de Wielewaal. The estate where the Philips family used to live. 

That estate will soon be part of the public greenery too. The municipality wants to eventually open Landgoed de Wielewaal, where Frits Philips lived from 1934 until he died in 2005, to all Eindhoven residents. The estate is 350 acres in size. 

From kicking the ball around with co-workers to Memphis Depay

We all know PSV. The Dutch soccer club is famous around the globe. A lesser-known fact is that PSV stands for Philips Sport Vereniging (Philips Sports Association). The sports club was founded in 1913, especially for Philips employees. Only after 1928 were people from outside the company allowed to join in. 

What once began as a sports club has grown into one of the Netherlands' most successful soccer clubs. Over the years, PSV played with top international players like Cocu, Van Nistelrooy, Robben, Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay. All thanks to Philips' first kick-off in 1913.

Philips Museum

Old factories infused with new life

The beauty of Eindhoven is that the city has honored its past. The old Philips factory buildings haven’t simply been destroyed to make way for new construction. They still exist. And they have all been given a cool, new purpose. 

Strijp-S

Once an abandoned factory site, now one of Eindhoven's most vibrant neighborhoods. Strijp-S was once developed as an industrial area. Especially for Philips factories. But in recent years Strijp-S underwent a true transformation. After Philips left it became a hip and lively neighborhood. Full of unique stores, restaurants, offices, and many creative inhabitants. But with the industrial character of yesteryear. 

Anton and Gerard

Anton and Gerard, the large white buildings that people instantly think of when they hear Strijp-S, used to be factory buildings where all kinds of Philips products were made. Today they’re turned into residential buildings with beautiful lofts. 

Klokgebouw

When you spot Klokgebouw, you know you're near Strijp-S. The name of the tall building comes from the clock at the top of the tower. Philips left its mark on that too: the letters PHILIPSPILIHP tell us the time of day. The building was built in the late 1920s and this is where they made Philite, which is the Philips brand name for Bakelite. 

If you step into Klokgebouw now, you'll find the workspaces of more than 100 creative entrepreneurs. But if you listen carefully, you'll also hear music! Klokgebouw is a sought-after event venue and houses PopEI: where musicians can practice their craft and play gigs. On the right side of the building, you’ll find the Blue Collar Hotel. This quirky hotel still has many elements from the Philips era. And also a touch of rock 'n roll.

Machinekamer

Machinekamer (Engine Room) was once part of the Klokgebouw power plant. The building kept Strijp-S up and running. Now you'll find restaurant Radio Royaal on the top floor. 14.000 square feet of raw industrial design and French-German cuisine. Furthermore, the Machinekamer is home to Pastry Club, Velo d'Anvers, and Room108 & Gusj Market.

Natlab

Natlab was Philips' old physics laboratory. It's where the company’s scientists used to cook up all kinds of new inventions. Did you know that Albert Einstein once gave a lecture there? 

Now the building has little to do with physics, and everything to do with culture and film. Natlab is the place to be for arthouse films, theater, and talk shows. You can also come to enjoy great food and have some drinks.

More great architecture and cool buildings

When it comes to architecture, the company left behind much more than some old factory buildings. Find out which other cool buildings were part of Philips history. 

Philipsdorp & Drents Dorp

Drents? But this article is about Eindhoven, right? You’re right. Philips attracted a lot of personnel from the province of Drenthe. To accommodate all those people from Drenthe in Eindhoven, Philips built a neighborhood for them in the 1920s. Hence the name Drents Dorp. The typical workers' houses built back then are still there.  

Another ten years earlier, Philipsdorp was built in the Strijp neighborhood. Also aiming to give employees of the fast-growing factory a place of their own.

Evoluon

Some have been there as children when Evoluon was still an educational technology museum. But since 1996, this iconic UFO has been a convention center and event venue. The wacky-looking building was gifted to the city by Philips in 1966 when the company celebrated its 75th anniversary. Good news for people who long for those good old days: with the exposition Next Nature, you can now return to the future of yesteryear.

Philips Stadium

It started with a small field between the city and the factories of Strijp-S. That was where Philips built a sports park for the residents of the Philipsdorp neighborhood. Now the Philips Stadium (or PSV stadium) is the home of the world-famous soccer club PSV. It’s a stadium that holds more than 35,000 visitors.

The Philips Observatory

In 1935, the Eindhoven Weather and Astronomy Circle was founded. In the beginning, it mostly attracted Philips employees with a love of weather and astronomy. When the society decided it wanted its own observatory, it was built in the Stadswandelpark. In 1938 they laid the first stone of the observatory, designed by Philips architect Louis Kalff. 

Villa de Laak

One of the most striking buildings in the district of Tongelre is Huize (or Villa) de Laak. Built in 1907, the villa was commissioned by Anton Philips, who lived there with his wife Henriëtte. Unfortunately, the house is not freely accessible. But from the Parklaan you can get a good look at the villa.

Strijp T + R

After Strijp-S, Philips also built factory sites Strijp-T and Strijp-R. The intention was to add Strijp-IJ and Strijp-P to the list, but it never came to that.

Strijp-T

Once the power plant that supplied Philips factories with energy, nowadays Strijp-T is a breeding ground for design and innovation. It has become a hub for all kinds of innovative Eindhoven businesses.

Strijp-R and Piet Hein Eek

A stone's throw from Strijp-T you’ll find Strijp-R. Around the area is the Zoompark, a legacy of Frits Philips, who believed that Philips employees would thrive in a green environment. At Strijp-R you can visit, among other places, the RK complex, the former Philips ceramic workshop. Years ago radios and televisions were made here. It is one of the few buildings that remained in this area after Philips' departure.

Strijp-R is now the home of designer Piet Hein Eek. You can visit the workshop and showroom of this world-famous designer. Would you like to take a piece of Piet home with you? Lucky you. There’s also a Piet Hein Eek shop. And as icing on the cake, you can also eat in Piet Hein Eek's restaurant, or spend a night in his design hotel! You’ll also find several other creative companies and design studios at Strijp-R.

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  • Eindhoven history
  • Culture & design
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