Meerrijk, Eindhoven, 17 years later
In 2006, while working at VHP, I was involved in the design competition for Meerrijk, the central area of the Meerhoven suburb in Eindhoven. In the following years, I provided regular support in the development of the public space, the parking garage, and one of the five building blocks. Now, nearly two decades later, Meerrijk is almost completed. It’s time to take a look at how it has become.
Did my artist impressions back then contribute to winning the competition? It would stroke my vanity, but that seems unlikely; they might have played a minor role at best. However, they do well in showing the concept: a compact urban center surrounded by water features, contrasting with the adjacent park.
The Australian rock formation Ayers Rock, now often referred to by its Aboriginal name Uluru, served as the inspiration. A reddish-brown monolith, visible from afar, revealing various grooves and other details up close. A playful composition with towers, apartment blocks, and townhouses, also incorporating an old hangar as a remnant of the time when this was a military site. An ensemble that looks different from every angle.
The translation of that ideal image into reality has been quite successful. All buildings are constructed using the same reddish-brown stone, and even the pavement follows the color scheme. As a result, Meerrijk appears as a unity, while the buildings, being designed by different architects, still possess enough diversity.
Inside the monolith, there is a network of streets and squares. A dream for architectural photographers, with beautiful sightlines. It’s creatively designed with green spaces, lampposts, and other furnishings, featuring openings that bring light into the parking garage and trees growing upward from the “underworld.”
That parking garage, serving residents and visitors alike, is another aspect that makes Meerrijk unique: the center is completely car-free thanks to the garage. Even the supply deliveries are underground. A shopping center without cars and without unsightly rear facades, that’s quite an achievement.
In short, I am quite enthousiastic. However, my travel companion I. disagrees somewhat. It’s lacking warmth, it’s not welcoming, that’s her harsh judgment. Adding some greenery on the rooftops would make it much more inviting. And okay, my artist impressions did show some patches of green on the buildings, but they didn’t make it to the implementation phase in the end.
Do I see any points for improvement myself? Well, perhaps it could have been a bit greener overall, not just on the roofs but also at street level. The residential streets, in particular, have a somewhat stony feel. That’s a disadvantage of having an underground parking garage beneath the entire area: it’s challenging to incorporate lush vegetation on top of it. But a few flower boxes or facade gardens would make a significant difference.
Furthermore, I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of liveliness. It was easy for me to take photos without people. Does everyone immediately sneak from the parking garage into the Albert Heijn supermarket? And where are the cafes and restaurants? One would expect a few terraces on the central square or by the waterfront. However, there are only a few fast-food places and coffee shops.
Well, these are just details… When you consider the disastrous interventions and budget cuts the plan could have fallen victim to in these almost twenty years, you can’t help but admire the result. My compliments to the former colleagues at VHP for the design. And to the people at wUrck, who are mostly the same former colleagues, for the implementation.
The final row
Meanwhile, I still need to plan another visit to see Meerrijk completely finished when the last row of townhouses is completed later this year.