This week the press was invited to take a tour of the BunkerToren. From the campus, the gradual skywards progress of the imposing residential tower that has risen above the old Bunker building has been visible to everyone, and much has already been written about it. It's now an impressive and handsome building, and would, believes architect Nanne de Ru of the Powerhouse Company, have pleased Huig Maaskant, the building's original architect. During the press gathering, De Ru admits to having a personal connection with the old Bunker, “I can still remember how I came to be in the building, but all memory of leaving it has gone”. Not that he was ever a member of any of the three Eindhoven social associations; he was a student in Amsterdam.
Here in the pedestal of this residential tower, are there any traces still of the former occupants: the three social associations and the infamous AOR, the abbreviation by which the general common room was known? This is also where the university cafeteria was to be found; it continued to serve students food until 2002. Here, generations of student quieted their rumbling stomachs with Dutch snack foods like kroketten and frikandellen, meaty deep-fried rolls, and worked their way through their glasses of cheap beer. On Facebook, incidentally, the AOR exists to this day, in virtual form, although the most recent post is dated July 8th, 2022.
Let's start with the space where the AOR used to be. This is now taken up with apartments, and because the external gallery on the east side remains fully intact, these all have their own balcony, giving them a wonderful view of the TU/e campus.
On the north side where Demos used to be housed is the entrance to their association premises, its characteristic features still intact: the small purple tiles and the big round bulging windows flanking both sides. Behind the windows, now doubled glazed - De Ru says the old Bunker designed by Maaskant was a veritable nightmare in terms of energy saving – the staff employed by GoodHabitz are setting up their work stations. The company's owner, Maarten Franken, was immediately charmed by this location, relates De Ru, and insisted on making it his head office. The pedestal, which includes the spaces that used to be association premises, is now occupied by this online training center. It's a nice extra, says De Ru, that the new occupier has ties with education.
This connection with education was high on the wish list held by TU/e professor Bernard Colenbrander. Colenbrander was closely involved in the sale and the discussions about the Bunker's future, and acted, says De Ru, as "a highly valued advisor". In November of last year Colenbrander reached emeritus status and, of course, the Bunker and the BunkerToren were topics of discussion in his farewell interview with Cursor. He said he'd once hoped that Summa College would move in, but De Ru says that while discussions were held with the institution, in the end Summa didn't make the purchase.
Colenbrander was also greatly in favor of the pedestal housing something to which the Eindhoven community would be given access. This then has become the tastefully furnished canteen run by GoodHabitz, which is on the south side of the building. The original rooms belonging to E.S.C and SSRE have been knocked into one to create it, but the tired, dark interiors of both ‘student cubbyholes’ have been replaced with a sleek, modern canteen refurbishment. Undeniably, the huge concrete fireplace in the ESC quarters (see the main photo) dominates the space. The waist-high wood paneling on the concrete walls - a characteristic found throughout the building - is original, says De Ru, "used, of course, after a good clean and the necessary repair work". Also striking are the red steel T-beams that can be found throughout the building and which now serve as partitions or railings. They too are authentic.
De Ru refers expressly to the BunkerPark that has been landscaped around the tower and which extends to cover the underground car park. This, he says, came about in consultation with the surrounding residents, who were initially very concerned about the shadow the 100-meter tall tower would cast over their neighborhood.
Says De Ru, “Of course it's still looking very bare, but soon this park will have fifteen hundred trees and will be dotted with art objects, including a huge bronze ape by Joep van Lieshout, and it's open to the public and sits nicely alongside the green TU/e campus, which is on the other side of the Kennedylaan.”
Did De Ru pay any thought to whether he'd give space to the slogan - 'Happy slaves are the worst enemies of freedom' - that used to stand atop the Bunker? "Yes, for a mad moment I considered a scrolling LED ticker tape display, but we ditched that idea."