Inspiration book KnoopXL

Collaborating on a pleasant, new residential area


How do you research the needs of future residents and users of a neighborhood that won't be completed for another twenty years?

If you want to transform a new neighborhood into a pleasant, vibrant space that aligns well with the needs of residents and entrepreneurs, you have to involve them in the development process early on. The Municipality of Eindhoven is already engaging with future users of KnoopXL, the area around the city's central station, even though it will be another twenty or thirty years before the new urban district is fully realized.

Predicting what you'll need in ten or twenty years is a daunting task. To gather useful input for KnoopXL, the Municipality of Eindhoven employs a design approach: creative interactions encourage entrepreneurs, Eindhoven locals, and other area users to articulate their (latent) wishes and needs. Two interventions during the Dutch Design Week (in 2019 and 2021) and street interviews in the area in 2020 led to an inspiration book accompanied by a set of cards, making the desires and needs of all respondents tangible. Developers receive this book along with a co-creation session involving specialists from the community and municipality, led by a social designer. During this session, the parties explore the specific context of the project based on the city's recommendations (the card set). This guides the developer in further planning, ensuring consideration for what future users desire in such a new space.

About cocosmos

Research and design firm cocosmos specializes in co-creation and research on societal issues. The firm operates under the belief that residents, entrepreneurs, and visitors collectively shape the city. Areas created in co-creation provide added value to those who reside in them. But how do you determine their future needs? In their research approach, cocosmos designers employ creativity to elicit experiences that reveal (latent) desires and needs through interactions. Because what people say often differs from what they do. This method leads to new insights and uncovers hidden needs. Effective dissemination of research results is crucial for cocosmos. The inspiration book emerged from this motivation, making insights tangible and presented in a format that gains broader acceptance and application, ensuring that developers or municipalities consider them in further planning.

‘‘In the development of a neighborhood, the focus is usually on bricks. Providing added value to the people who live and work there seems more like a 'nice to have.' By considering their (future) needs in developing plans, you create a place that thrives. An area where people enjoy being.’’
Philémonne Jaasma | cocosmos

The incentive

Eindhoven's station area is bursting at the seams. There is increasing demand for bus, train, and bicycle transportation to and from the city and its surroundings. Additionally, the pressure on the housing market—Eindhoven being the fifth-largest city in the country and home to many expatriates—is set to increase significantly in the coming years. On the other hand, heat stress is also a problem. In the paved inner city, it gets excessively hot in the summer, and rainwater drainage becomes increasingly challenging. More greenery is one of the solutions. How do you bring together transportation, housing, and climate resilience?

On the north side of Eindhoven Central, there will be ample space. The bus station will expand and go underground. The busy thoroughfare Fellenoord will become more car-free. This creates opportunities for housing, with space for greenery and relaxation.

In the coming decades, a brand-new residential area will emerge, side by side with the station and in the heart of the city center. An interesting area that consolidates many different functions. People live and work there, and the area serves as a transit point for passersby traveling to and from the station.


About the process

The idea
How do you want to live in twenty or thirty years? What will you, as an entrepreneur, need by then? These are abstract questions. When posed directly, they are challenging to answer. Because what do you actually want? Likely, they lead to very practical responses: benches for resting, good access roads for business deliveries, a supermarket, and enough buses and trains to get from A to B. Interesting answers, but not what the Municipality of Eindhoven was seeking for KnoopXL. They wanted to know how the new neighborhood behind Central Station would provide added value to those who live, work, or pass through it. What feeling should the area evoke? What functions should it serve for them? What identity suits it? And when would they definitely come back? To unearth answers to such questions, a different kind of research is necessary. Instead of directly asking what they want, the aim is to stimulate them to reveal their (latent) needs and desires.

‘‘Around ten thousand people will reside in this area in the future. Living, working, and traveling converge in one place. By brainstorming with residents, entrepreneurs, and visitors about what that neighborhood should be, this place will align well with the needs of those who live or work in KnoopXL.’’
Monique Habraken | Project Leader Placemaking, Municipality of Eindhoven

The plan
A design approach helps people creatively envision their most desirable situation. For KnoopXL, this began during Dutch Design Week 2019. At The Student Hotel, visitors glimpsed into the virtual future reality of Fellenoord. They noted their reactions and tips on a coaster and responded to statements by placing stickers. For example, 'Do you want this area to be vibrant and lively mainly between 7:00 am - 7:00 pm or between 7:00 pm and 7:00 am?' In July 2020, the Municipality of Eindhoven conducted street interviews with approximately fifty people in the area. They answered questions and prioritized topics on boards according to what they considered most important. During Dutch Design Week 2021, Huiskamer KnoopXL opened in the old tourist info office on the south side of the station. About 2,300 visitors participated in the DDW exhibition to contribute ideas to the area's development. They expressed their preferences or suggestions by placing stickers on future sketches and impressions of the area, or by leaving a message in the guestbook. Several sessions with stakeholders on specific topics (such as greenery, mobility, liveliness, or housing) provided further depth to the advice given to the municipality. In 2022, during Dutch Design Week, the Municipality of Eindhoven presented plans for the area using a scale model and invited feedback and ideas from visitors. Additionally, there was a neighborhood bingo about the research results so far. In total, five thousand addresses in Eindhoven were invited, in addition to DDW visitors.


The implementation
Conducting research on wishes and needs is great, but how do you ensure that the results are utilized? Suppose the initiator and the municipality formally join forces. At that moment, the initiator receives the KnoopXL Inspiration Book, along with a friendly request to participate in a co-creation session. And this is unique in the Netherlands. Eindhoven is taking a bold step in listening to future residents, entrepreneurs, and visitors of such a development area.

The Municipality of Eindhoven and cocosmos compiled the results of all research into an inspiration book. They visualized the results with a card set, which developers must use when making plans. During the preliminary design phase, the Municipality of Eindhoven plans a co-creation session with the developer to bring the wishes and needs to their attention. The composition of participants during such a session depends on the project's context. If it's a project in a green area, experts in this field will be involved. If there are social challenges, they will invite people with relevant backgrounds.

The inspiration book is printed in a limited edition and available only to stakeholders and parties who can and must act on it. For example, for promoting the inspiration book (by Eindhoven's city marketers at Eindhoven365), or because they need to apply it (developers). The inspiration book consists of a ring binder and separate inspiration cards, and that's not without reason. This format allows for continuous updates and additions. This is important since the area's development will take so long. The Municipality of Eindhoven continuously supplements the book with new findings. Developers and stakeholders who already possess the book receive the new recommendations by mail.

The research results are grouped into ten themes in the accompanying card set: greenery, mobility, health, inclusive society, sustainability, economy, liveliness, housing, identity, and public space. Examples of cards include: 'Designing public space that encourages a healthy lifestyle,' 'Let nature be nature,' 'Emphasize slow traffic,' 'Affordable housing,' and 'Promote social cohesion, especially in high-rise buildings.'

Future plans

KnoopXL is an area in development. In the short term, the south side of the station will undergo renovation. Concrete plans exist for a residential tower on the north side, where the building 'de Vierlander' currently stands. Additionally, the Municipality of Eindhoven is working on a (visual) identity for the area, ensuring that every activity or expression immediately conveys that it pertains to KnoopXL.


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