This is our first installment of a new High Tech Campus blog series: High Tech History. High Tech Campus Eindhoven was built on land with rich history.
Imagine you’re taking a stroll around Campus during your lunch hour. Maybe you work for tech giant Philips, or you’re a co-founder of a tech startup, or maybe you’re even a marketeer for one of many Campus residents.
As you walk away from The Strip and across the lake, you spot a little brick building surrounded by a thick garden: The Farm. You might look around at all the modern office buildings and garages on Campus and wonder, “This is the smartest square kilometer in Europe. I’m surrounded by some of the most advanced, innovative tech companies in the world. What is this storybook farmhouse doing in the middle of it all?”
We’re glad you asked! Because we have the answers.
Before High Tech Campus Eindhoven, before the Nat.Lab, even before Philips itself existed … there was The Farm.
According to research conducted by amateur historian Jos Huske, The Farm was built in 1873, and its first owners were Franciscus Cornelius Kelen and his wife. That makes it 150 years old in 2023! Not much is known about its early years, but it was sold to the Eindhoven construction company “Thuis Best” in 1913. At the time, it was also rented by the family of Nat.Lab member Wim Schram.
It became a part of Philips history in 1958, when the land was sold to Philips. Philips would relocate their Natuurkundig Laboratorium, better known as Nat.Lab, from Strijp-S to this land, and The Farm just happened to be included. Instead of tearing it down, Nat.Lab decided to put The Farm to work! It began as housing and storage for the gardeners but was converted into the Nat.Lab Sportsclub in the summer of 1969.
Early Nat.Lab Sportsclub members had a lot to wish for. The Farm had no plumbing, no heating, and, most shockingly, no bar. They held out until mid-1970, when renovation plans were made to turn The Farm into a more comfortable club for Nat.Lab athletes. (According to Hans Verbunt, this was mainly pursued because the table tennis equipment needed a new home).
By 1979, The Farm had been transformed, mostly through the hard work of Sportsclub members. There were changing rooms, showers, a loft just for table tennis and the bar of their dreams. Since then, The Farm became an integral part of Nat.Lab’s social scene. In 2000, further renovation plans intended to make the building an extension of The Strip, with a 24-seat café and conference rooms in the works.
It can’t be overstated how much affection the Nat.Lab community felt for The Farm. In 2003, the Sportclub even rejoiced at the news that The Farm would be staying, despite rumors that it would be demolished. The 2003 report stated “it is all the more important that this piece of Brabant’s cultural heritage is preserved in a high-tech environment. Our Farm will not look out of place and we hope that we can use it for a long time to come!”
In the Book “Van Kastanjelaan naar Campus,” a history of the Nat.Lab Sportclub, The Farm makes plenty of appearances. For example, to celebrate their 40 years of Nat.Lab Sportsclub, they celebrated with an Olympic Day, and the “the Mother of All Parties” at The Farm to close the celebrations.
The book also commemorates Simon Wijn and his wife, whose portrait hung in The Farm for years. Simon Wijn was the beloved first manager of The Farm. He attended every football evening without fail and always gave children free candy, leading many mothers to bring their kids to watch the football matches. To recognize his role in the Sportclub as The Farm's manager, they named their football tournament “The Simon Wijn Tournament.” However, after his illness in 1979 and the death of his wife in 1980, Simon unfortunately passed away. He’s remembered fondly by early Nat.Lab Sportclub members.
Our research into the history of The Farm was only possible with the work of Henk Hagenbeuk, whose website provided all of the information and photos, and Harrie Arends, who is always glad to tell us some Campus history. Henk has done incredible work to make Philips and Nat.Lab history accessible. When we started wondering about The Farm and where it came from, we didn’t think we would find much. Maybe the date it was built or who lived there in the past.
What we found instead was the love and affection the Nat.Lab Sportsclub had for their headquarters, as well as the rich history of the Sportsclub itself. We had no idea the size and influence of Sportsclub, nor how important it was to the culture of Nat.Lab.
Since its life as a home for Sportsclub, The Farm has been used as Campus event space. The early Philips MyShop Pop-Up stores were held there until they became too popular and too big. Philips now manages The Farm (house) as event space, including a small conference room.
High Tech Farmers have their community garden at The Farm. Which brings it back to full circle and The Farm’s original purpose.
Want to learn more? Check out Henk Hagenbeuk’s website HERE.