City architect Don Murphy: ‘Eindhoven needs densifiction’

Skyscrapers are cause for debate Picture courtesy: Studio040/ Amvest

Many more people should live in the centre of Eindhoven, now that the Brainport region is growing. Building many houses in the towns and villages around Eindhoven is just out of the question. So says Don Murphy, the recently appointed master builder of the inner city.

Last autumn, the Irishman took over from Kees Christiaanse and Winy Maas. Studio040 joined a conversation between the supervisor and platform EHVXL. Murphy says he is well aware that the Eindhoven region is facing a huge construction challenge. But where should those 100,000 homes that must be built before 2040 be located?

Murphy pulls out a diagram on the presentation screen behind him. “This is Eindhoven in 1900”, he points to a small spot on the screen. “You see how fast that city has grown in size in a century. But the size of the city has grown ten times faster than the population. That is hugely problematic in terms of sustainability, the environment, and quality of life”.

Unsafe, uninteresting

“Large, empty cities with a low population density are unsafe and are uninteresting. So the question is, how do we get people to live in the city centre? How do we ensure that they use the available facilities in the right way? Cities in which many people live are simply safer cities”.

Densification does not necessarily require high-rise buildings, look at Paris and Barcelona’  Don Murphy, master builder Eindhoven centre

That is why more people need to come and live in the city, says Murphy. Densification is the motto. “People may not like it, but densification is necessary. This way we can solve the housing shortage and build a better city. There must be cohesion between nature and urban development. Together with quality public space”.


However, high residential towers traditionally cause a lot of discussion in Eindhoven politics. For example, the plans for residential towers around Stadhuisplein had to be changed due to dissatisfaction with the high-rise. “But high-rise is not something I ever mentioned. I’m not against it either, as a city, you can get to a point where a high-rise is needed and it can work very well. But high-rise buildings are different from densification and especially the latter is really important”.

Eindhoven has the potential to become a central city of Northern Europe’  Don Murphy, master builder Eindhoven centre

“Paris is much more densely populated than any other European city. Barcelona, too, and parts of London. That doesn’t necessarily require a lot of high-rise buildings”,  Murphy explains. “It is quite possible to develop cities where it is very pleasant to live and which is pleasant to walk through. We must have that ambition”.

Don Murphy
Don Murphy Picture credit: Studio040

The centre of Northern Europe

For that ambition to become reality, a lot has to be built, especially in Eindhoven. Moving the construction task to the towns and villages in the region is a bad idea, Murphy thinks. “Eindhoven is the central city of the Brainport region. A thousand homes are to be built. That has to happen here. If I were a minister I would ban all housing projects in green areas. It might not get me elected, but it is necessary.”

In this way, Eindhoven can not only grow into an important city for the region, but for the entire continent, Murphy thinks. “This is an important moment for Eindhoven. The city must not only become the centre of the region, but in terms of technological innovation and development, it must become the centre of Northern Europe. It has that potential.”

Source: Studio040

Translate: Ayşenur Kuran

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  1. I’m not against densification, and it’s great if that can be achieved without high rises. However, in the cities mentioned, the densification was partially reached by having people in hmo constructions, or dividing existing houses into tiny apartments… Besides, the parking problem in the city center is atrocious… And while the city is convinced people who will come to live in the city center won’t want to drive a car anymore, or will share cars, the reality is that when living in the centre is not a choice, but a necessity, it won’t just be the environmentally aware people that move in… And will people with a car want to come and live in Eindhoven when they can’t park their care and the apartment is tiny? They may have to, but it won’t be very pleasant to live…

  2. Completely wrong. There’s nothing worse than a packed, densely populated city. It gets crowded, chaotic, noisy, dirty, traffic will be an insurmountable nightmare. Quality of life is significantly worse, with less green area per capita and less sunlight. Worse for plants, worse for birds and insects. Worse for everyone. Why is building more houses outside Eindhoven out of question? We should be moving towards self-sustained, decentralised urban areas, not going the opposite way. This guy is likely trying to justify fancy, profitable building projects. His arguments are complete rubbish. Also, I don’t understand how the government projects for population growth and at the same time cracks down on farmers because of “emissions”. How do you expect to feed the growing population? Bug farms and artificial vegan goo? No, thanks.

  3. Eindhoven has no choice but to urbanize and reach for the sky. Don Murphy is right in recognizing that sprawl is not a viable option. It’s not a pleasant way to live, and there simply isn’t enough space. Relying on the surrounding region is also difficult due to the many municipal governments, so I believe annexation should be considered once again. High-rise buildings and preserving the charm of Eindhoven can coexist harmoniously.

  4. Wow. How is this guy the master of Eindhoven?! When you have someone in that position stating that densification is the cause of safer cities like Barcelona and Paris. Did he ever go to Barcelona and Paris?! Probably some of the worst examples ever! Paris with its no go zones, where french police simply doesn’t dare to enter. Barcelona one of the most disconnected cities to its Spanish heritage, it’s all for tourism and nothing more.

    He almost forgets that Barcelona has a beach and Paris a river that give the needed breather to the people from the dense city. I mean it’s just not comparable.

    Eindhoven is an incredible boring and truly not interesting city because it has no history! It’s all about Philips. There’s nothing cultural to see and do apart from one museum and some Philips related things. One street or two with stores and bars and that’s it. The new Strijp S area has an abhorrent urban plan, where tower after tower are being built but all the urban necessities have been forgotten. No dog parks, no children playgrounds, no supermarkets, no bakery, butcher etc. No EMPTY space and green areas, that is so important for a true great city.

    The only reason why Eindhoven would become the centre of the Northern Europe is due to ASML (as it was like Philips before), and nothing to do with the city itself. ASML needs to build more houses for their growing international team and that’s what’s putting Eindhoven in the map again. Not Brainport sorry.

    This Irish Master is so wrong, it’s scary. Perhaps you should get a master from a country that truly understands the importance of urbanism. Success Eindhoven! It seems like a catastrophe is eminent.


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