Before talking about what she has achieved here, we want to know why she is leaving. “It is time to move on. I am proud of what I have achieved and I want to hold on to that feeling. I don't want to become bitter. I have no idea where I'll end up, but I do know that I am more suited to a social institution than a purely commercial one.”
When she came here, she found a TU/e service that was very good at management and maintenance. “And I mean really good. It's quite an achievement to keep elevators that are fifty years old in working order.” She is referring to Potentiaal, where Electrical Engineering was still housed, and the Main building. For the rest, while Real Estate Management was working on the zoning plan and master plan, it was running to some extent in 'wait and see' mode. “Waiting until it could carry out assignments issued by the Executive Board.”
But, as she realized in 2009, the parts for the elevators would soon no longer be available. So she had to invest in new elevators and heating systems and toilets. Seventy percent of what she encountered was way beyond its replacement date. And no plans for replacement had been made, because ‘at some point we'll renovate’.
Marks came to TU/e from her dual roles as departmental head of project management and deputy director of the Government Buildings Agency, where she was working with nine hundred projects and 600 million euros. “A very interesting job in which I had to deal with two crises: the Schiphol fire and the economic crisis in 2008.” It became a job in which she was mainly collaborating with people with a politically sensitive agenda and for which she had to travel by train to the Hague every day. “When I saw the vacancy for director of Real Estate Management at TU/e, where I could get back to some hands-on work, and which would mean cycling to work, it seemed like a good choice.”
Real Estate Plan 2020
She was tasked with realizing the Real Estate Plan 2020, consisting of four projects and the Green Strip. “I succeeded Piet van Happen, who became project manager of the remodeling of the W-Hall into MetaForum. A firm named Ector Hoogstad Architecten was already working on the design, and the discussion about cultural heritage had already taken place. For Flux a program of requirements had already been created."
A joint workshop with Built Environment was her first step towards achieving her total vision; she was ‘very green’. This gave rise to a master plan, including provisions for parking, residential accommodation, a building for DIFFER, and the separation into a compact campus and peripheral areas. A quality committee comprising the university's own professors - from the Department of the Built Environment - and a landscape architecture firm was installed.
An eighty million building
For Marks, it meant keeping a lot of balls in the air. “Within a month, I learned that Flux was going to cost no less than eighty million euros rather than the planned thirty-nine million. The Executive Board said, 'Just make sure you stay within budget'. I went to talk to the deans. Electrical Engineering was understanding, but Applied Physics said, ‘That's not our problem, we are the bedrock of science, it's up to the Executive Board to provide a building’. I then showed them exactly what you can get for thirty-nine million: which labs, rooms for practicals, offices and lecture halls you can have. We made a lot of progress; we'd be only one large lab short. But there was worse to come: at the presentation on the likely flex-desks, I saw first the rector magnificus and then both deans dig their heads in. ‘Flex-desks? We're not doing that. Marks, you have a problem, just solve it.’”
Eventually she managed it. A year later the compromise had been found: a new building for EE and TN for fifty million. “It was possible with thirty million less than was first thought because we struck lucky with the tender for MetaForum.”
When the first drinks party for the opening of the academic year was held in MetaForum, in 2012, she felt a great sense of relief. “This is what we needed,” she heard professors say. “They had spent so many years occupying dilapidated old premises that they had become blind to the decrepitude. Until they saw MetaForum.”
It was a green analysis made for the Green Strip that prompted in architect Marks, who graduated from Delft in 1987, an awareness of the magnificent trees on campus. “The creation of the Green Strip has done TU/e a lot of good. Students now go and sit outside, people choose to walk outside rather than take the pedestrian bridges, the campus has become a much more appealing place to spend time.”
The Green Strip was completed earlier than planned. “I brought it forward. It was due to be Project no. 5, only after the Gemini renovation, but when the hall in MF was being developed, I realized that we could not have the market hall opening onto a car park on one side by Ceres, and a car park on the other side next to the pond - which itself wasn't yet there.” She is very happy with the current situation. “Even my son, who is studying in Nijmegen, says that it's so nice here that you don't get run over by a bus when you walk outside. That you can go and sit on a bench or can even go for a walk. That strikes him.”
Fine results, but not achieved without a struggle. The period in which the Main building had to be cleared out caused a lot of unrest; it coincided with the removal to Flux. “Six departments and four TU/e services were on the move. We had to relocate three-quarters of the university and everyone had to be content with being a little closer to their neighbours. Yes, that certainly kept me awake at night. In terms of organization, it was a huge undertaking.”
What she has not achieved, much to her regret, is the integrated management of the lecture halls. “I think it is a shame that while the lecture halls can be reserved through 'Book My Space', the centralized provision of the auxiliary services is not yet signed, sealed and delivered. I would have liked to have seen that before I leave.”
The ten projects that were built or renovated while Veronique Marks was Director of Real Estate Management: MetaForum, Ceres, Flux, the Ventur wind tunnel, Matrix, Atlas, Catalyst, DIFFER and the residential towers Luna and Aurora.
The old W-hal has been transformed into MetaForum, the heart of the TU/e campus, home to the library, the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and much more besides.
The old boiler house has been transformed to create the premises of the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems (ICMS).
The departments of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering vacated their own buildings (N-Laag and Potentiaal, respectively) to share the new Flux building.
On the southeast side of the campus the Department of the Built Environment gained its own atmospheric boundary layer tunnel.
In November 2018 Matrix opened its doors to the Equipment and Prototype Center, formerly housed in the TNO building, and TU/e innovation Space, where enterprising students are at home.
It took four years to remodel the Main building into Atlas, the most sustainable educational building in the world. The building, dating from 1963, now achieves the highest score for sustainability. Atlas has reopend in January 2019 and now houses eight TU/e services and the Departments of Industrial Design and Industrial Engingeering and Innovation Sciences.
Business center Catalyst offers space to 30 to 35 technostarters. It has been in use since April 2012.
The relocation of the DIFFER research institute (Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research) from the Rijnhuizen country estate in Nieuwegein to the TU/e campus took place in the spring of 2015.
In August 2015 the first residents of Luna, the former home of Electrical Engineering, moved into the building, which had been transformed in under a year into a residential tower containing 44 units.
Since the summer of 2016 Vestide, an arm of the Woonbedrijf housing corporation, has been renting out 300 furnished student rooms in the new Aurora building.
Veronique Marks's farewell party will be held on Friday January 25th in Atlas, the last project she has completed as Director of Real Estate Management.