Experience vision for Victoriapark

Designing public spaces with the city’s residents

Belevingsvisie Victoriapark straatgesprek Sch R Gemiddeld

What if you let residents and business owners in the neighborhood participate in the redesign of a park?

Victoriapark, a park to be newly developed in the heart of Eindhoven's Emmasingel district, is intended to be a pleasant place for all who use it. But what is pleasant? How will local residents, business owners and visitors make use of the park in the near future? And what role does the park play in the daily lives of these people?

Developing a new park is not about putting a playground here or a tree there. It involves more abstract things, such as desires, wants and needs. With playful, thought-provoking interventions and in-depth interviews, Renee Scheepers, an experience architect, and designer Alissa van Asseldonk explored how the park connects with the experience of the park's future users. During the research, they spoke with both the usual and the unusual suspects – the people who may be less likely to speak up of their own accord.

Based on the research findings, they made adjustments and refinements to the draft design for Victoriapark. For example, the design now takes more account of the aerial view of the park. Nearby residents living in high-rise buildings indicated that they would like the view of the park to be attractive from their homes as well.

About Renee Scheepers

A building, project or area remains soulless if you don't design life into it. Exploring that future life – the way such a building, area or project will have a role in people's daily activities – is the main drive for experience architect and social designer Renee Scheepers. With her design firmstudio Scheepers&Renee, she assists in major spatial projects, building renovations and area transformations by ensuring that what is built connects to what people want or need. Among other things, Renee developed a new layout for the ICU ward of the Jeroen Bosch Hospital, which makes the waiting experience more pleasant for family members. She made a pit stop to help people think about the future of Eindhoven's Fellenoord neighborhood in an accessible way. And for BAM Wonen, she brought together people living in a Mixed Housing scheme (people with a history of homelessness and people who want to support them in recovery).

For more information, visit scheepersenrenee.nl.

About Alissa van Asseldonk

Alissa van Asseldonk is co-founder of Alissa+Nienke, a design studio that focuses primarily on material research. The human experience is at the heart of their work. They create materials, objects and installations that trigger curiosity and interaction. For example, they made three-dimensional wallpaper, which reflects light in a certain way and which you can stroke with your hands. Alissa and Renee know each other from the Design Academy Eindhoven, where they both studied and later were part of a research fellowship.

For more information, visit alissanienke.nl.

Belevingsvisie Victoriapark kijkbord Sch R Gemiddeld

About the project

The site where the Emmasingelkwadrant will be created in the coming years - hemmed in between Emmasingel, Mathildelaan, Vonderweg and Willemstraat - used to be a kind of "forbidden city" that you could only enter with a pass. The site was then owned by Philips and only accessible to employees. When Philips sold the area, the municipality felt it should become part of the city. The developers who bought up pieces of the area had to keep part of it free for a new park that was to be developed: the Victoriapark.

People in large apartment complexes are likely to live fairly individualistic lives. To make the Emmasingelkwadrant a pleasant, lively neighborhood, interactions are desperately needed. A park is a perfect place for people to meet. Furthermore, a park helps to climate-proof a city. A park reduces heat stress in Eindhoven's paved downtown area, and in times of heavy rain it allows rainwater to drain more easily.

Turning a new park into a pleasant meeting place for local residents, visitors and business owners: how do you go about that? The Municipality of Eindhoven hired Renee Scheepers and Alissa van Asseldonk to conduct a participation process. The assignment: collect practical tips from the future users of the park, which will help us to turn the park into that pleasant place.

Belevingsvisie Victoriapark straatgesprek2 Sch R Gemiddeld

About the process

The idea

If you ask someone on the spot what a new park should look like, they will quickly start talking about trees, playground equipment, what plants they like and whether or not there should be a grassy area. But these practical answers were not at all that the Municipality of Eindhoven and designers Renee Scheepers and Alissa van Asseldonk were looking for. Instead, they wanted to know what place the park will have in people's daily lives once it is there. What do they hope such a park will offer them? What are they looking for in such a park? Peace and quiet or an opportunity to meet people? Do they look forward to meeting new people or would they rather meet up with old acquaintances? Do they want to relax or to re-energize? To find the answers to these questions you have to dig deeper. Look into what the park can contribute to someone's day or week.

‘‘If you want a place that people are going to love, then you have to take their wishes seriously, too.’’
Renee Scheepers | Scheepers&Renee
Belevingsvisie Victoriapark diepteinterview Sch R Gemiddeld

The plan

If you want people to say more about their wants and desires, the first question you ask is very important. Asking immediately about someone's wishes or desires is too big or abstract a question. An intervention makes things more tangible. Like the tea box filled with chocolates Renee and Alissa used to survey people's wishes on the street. From nine preselected wishes, people on the street chose the wish that best suited them. Then Renee and Alissa continued by asking: what do you do when you get home? What would you like to be different? With one such small intervention, the designers opened a door. They did this intervention at three different places and times in the city. Indeed, that makes a lot of difference in terms of the people you meet and the answers you get. In this way, they also spoke to people who usually do not speak up so readily. This was one of the three interventions the designers developed. In total, they spoke to 152 people in and around downtown Eindhoven.

Alissa and Nienke spent half a day with fifteen key people from the neighborhood. They had in-depth interviews with them, and dove a little deeper into what the Victoriapark of the future could or should look like.

‘‘You really only notice the seasons in the city by the windows of the Bijenkorf. It would be lovely to be able to really experience the seasons here.’’
One of the participants in Alissa and Renee's survey


Their extensive survey of 152 future park users plus 15 in-depth interviews with stakeholders narrowed Alissa and Renee down to a few themes. For example: playing in the park, the park as a stage, meeting and being together, feeling in the park, quality of the park and the park from above. In this way, they combined input into concrete starting points, useful for the park's design. For example, the designers conclude that seating areas are important to future park users wanting to hang out in the park. For longer visits sitting on the ground enjoying a picnic in the grass, or for older people or those who are just staying a short time in the park, benches or "those chairs you can move around, like in Paris, so you can sit anywhere" were suggested. And: almost everyone says that you should not control the overall picture of the park too much, that it should be allowed to emerge organically. Facilitate without dictating: "It has to grow, make it organic. A pop-up park," "the Lichtplein could become a plug&play place with water, electricity, etc." With the survey results tucked under their arms, they provided the draft design for Victoriapark with the necessary modifications and refinements. If all goes according to schedule, the actual construction of the park will be completed by the end of 2023.

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Andreas Hetfeld Poort naar de Toekomst 1
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