René Raaijmakers
22 April

In February 2019, Eindhovens Dagblad reported that ASML’s first office and factory were going up to be demolished – the landmark establishment with which the litho company made a statement visible to all: we’re going to conquer the world.

It’s still there, but the plan was that the ASML building at De Run 1102 in Veldhoven would be demolished to make way for a new office. After a newspaper report in Eindhovens Dagblad, former employees were invited to take a final look. “It’s clear that the building is worn out and no longer meets the demands of our time,” concluded Wim Hendriksen on the website of Digitale Stad Eindhoven (DSE).

But the man who led ASML’s software operations in the 1990s simultaneously sparked a discussion: “Does it really need to be razed to the ground? We already have so few historic buildings in the region. The Philips factory was also saved and now transformed into the Philips Museum.”

ASML Building 1 Wim Hendriksen
Credit: Wim Hendriksen

Statement

“Few ASML employees still realize why Building 1 got its flamboyant look,” writes Joop van Kessel on DSE. Van Kessel was closely involved in the building plans in 1984. “A unique building in a good place was part of a vision of the quality and culture ASML should achieve to survive.” He explains that the idea was that potential customers visiting from the US would recognize themselves in a Silicon Valley look. That would dispel preconceptions of a nerdy firm from a nerdy country somewhere near Copenhagen. For Van Kessel, the building symbolizes the vision realized. “It’s my wish that the canopy of Building 1 as a representative of a piece of ASML history will in some way, if possible, physically, be given a place within the future ASML campus.”

In those early years, Building 1 made an indelible impression on some potential employees. “I can still remember the ad in which a small company in Veldhoven was looking for engineers in 1989,” writes Rene Bastiaanssen on DSE. “This building was prominently featured in the full-page ad. That alone exuded the high-tech atmosphere and made me curious. Once inside, a tingling science fiction feeling came over me. What on Earth was being made here anyway?”

Current CTO Martin van den Brink had a more practical take in 2019. “What’s primarily needed are office buildings,” he wrote to Hendriksen, who posted the email on DSE. Van den Brink recalled that for some people, ASML didn’t start in Building 1 but at Strijp T in Eindhoven. A memorial had also recently been unveiled there, he added. Building 1, he said, could be seen as one of the steps ASML took. “For others, it started at the Philips Natlab in Waalre.” Van den Brink also noted that “respect would be shown for the past of the location.” However, it wasn’t likely that an old facade would fit into the new plans.

Among the many nostalgic comments on DSE, solemnity is especially resonant. Nico Hermans, the first director of development, suggests saving the facade. Richard George, a member of ASML’s management team in 1984 with Van Kessel, doesn’t think that’s necessary at all. “I see insufficient reasons for pure sentimentality to compromise the design of new buildings and substantially increase costs and perhaps delay the new building process just to preserve the original tower entrance. Good photos in the ASML museum and perhaps in a memorial next to the new builds would be sufficient.” Bastiaanssen also concludes after his nostalgic look back: “Preserve it? Well, we have to move on. Cherish good memories and perhaps keep them alive with a model. And if it’s going to be demolished, say goodbye with some ceremony.”

What’s the historical value of Building 1? At the Natlab in Waalre, Philips made its first stepper, Strijp T was the place where fifty technicians split off from Philips in 1984 as ASM Lithography. There are still a few unexciting buildings left of the Natlab – the memorial at Strijp T is mainly a nice marketing tool for the project developer. I see Building 1 as a tangible statement, a visible remnant of the business equations that ASML’s first CEO, Gjalt Smit, said he had to complete. He wanted an imposing building that exudes a high-tech vibe. Everyone in the greater Eindhoven region had to know ASML existed. He wanted a landmark, a striking visual reference point that no one could ignore. Amid the dank Dutch landscape, Smit wanted to build a headquarters that felt like Silicon Valley.

Rembrandt

Despite the proposed demolition, Building 1 is still standing. Meanwhile, ASML’s view of office space has completely changed due to corona. For years, the litho company designed its offices to accommodate as many people as possible in one square meter. Offices became office gardens and office gardens became workspaces. Everything as close together as possible. That concept no longer fits. It’s expected that ASML will support its employees much more in working from home.

ASML won’t be interested in getting involved in a heated discussion about an old building. It’s one of those minor issues that come with success. It falls into the category of who in the company’s history should or should not be nominated for a medal. Before you know it, you’re stepping on someone’s toes or wading into a political minefield.

But Building 1 can’t be ignored. It may be very young, but it’s just as much industrial heritage as the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam, De Gruyter in ’s-Hertogenbosch and the Klokgebouw at Strijp. These have all been given new purposes, often with a focus on innovation.

ASML may own the building, but it was also acquired with Veldhoven’s help at the time. Perhaps the municipality should have an important voice in this. In doing so, it should also take a look at the city marketing Leiden has started in recent years. Leiden wants to become Rembrandt City. The great painter was born there, lived there for twenty-five years and went to the Latin school and the university at the Rapenburg. Unfortunately, Rembrandt’s parental home in the Weddesteeg was demolished in the early twentieth century. Only a plaque adorns the facade there: “Here, on the 15th of July 1606, Rembrandt van Rijn was born.”