Demolish EEMCS? Why are the first staff members back?

According to the grapevine, the EEMCS block is spared demolition for another five years and will again house some extra people. This has not been confirmed officially.

There is little clarity about the future of the building, but that does not mean it will not be demolished. (Photo's: Sam Rentmeester)

Barista Gijs de Jonge (24) isn’t very busy yet. The exam period and the warm weather are keeping everyone indoors instead of queueing for the mobile coffee cart in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS). Still, The Coffee Star has ‘extremely high hopes’ that it will be able to expand to a permanent coffee corner this summer.

Staff members like De Jonge hear from their customers that the EEMCS high-rise will stay open ‘for another five years’ and that three empty floors will again be occupied. De Jonge has not yet heard this officially, but the building drawings for the new coffee corner are already ready. Work on building The Coffee Star is expected to start during the summer break.

All this in a building which the Executive Board decided to stop using for the Faculty at the end of 2015. In 2017, the Mathematics and Computer Sciences departments moved to the Van Mourik Broekmanweg. ‘The building did not meet today’s requirements for teaching and research anymore,’ stated TU Delft regarding the EEMCS building. This was partly because of the ‘enormous increase in the number of students’ and ‘changing standards for the laboratories’. Last year October, TU Delft – after years of assessments – expressed its intention to demolish the block and build a new one behind it.

EWI_ruimte_repo_7556_WEB.jpgBarista Gijs de Jonge.

The plans to demolish the EEMCS building triggered resistance. Stichting Docomomo Nederland, (the Docomomo foundation of the Netherlands), a working group advocating for the preservation of modern monuments and heritage sites, started a petition to save ‘municipal monuments that have great architectural, cultural, historic and urban architectural value’ from the demolition ball. The group sees the iconic building ‘as a symbol of the university and the city’. The Het Cuypersgenootschap (The Cuypers association) called ‘the demolition of the icon of the TU indescribable’, in the AD

For responses about the future plans of the block, both the Dean, John Schmitz, and the EEMCS Faculty Secretary, Irene Haslinger, refer to Nicoly Vermeulen of the Executive Board. “It is still too early to make a statement. There are many considerations, including financial ones.” Schmitz keeps it short.

Vice President Operations Vermeulen said that nothing will be demolished in the immediate future. “We will look at all the building’s options again.” She does not rule out that the building will be used for ‘flexible purposes’.

Up to now, only the fifth floor is housing one section. Last November, Embedded and Networked Systems moved from the Van Mourik Broekmanweg back to the EEMCS building. Master’s student Thijmen Ketel (27) and three other students sit in a lecture room on the fifth floor. He is cramming to  ‘hopefully’ finish his degree course in a month. The rest of his study group is spread around the other lecture rooms. Ketel says that his group was the easiest to move, partly because it is small. He has also heard that the move will be for a period of five years, but has his doubts about the location. “The floors above and below us are empty. This is not the most energy efficient option.”

Master student Thijmen Ketel (in the back, right). 

Floors 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 19 and 20 are indeed empty and sealed off with a notice that says ‘No unauthorised entry’. The only person there, is a technician working on the periodic maintenance of the ventilation system. For him, the empty building is convenient. “There are usually desks and cupboards in the way. Now I’m done in no time.”

The EEMCS’s Personnel Committee during the move of the Mathematics and Computer Sciences departments was then against splitting up the Faculty, says its Chair Stephan Wong. He was told that ‘if there is not enough space’ on the Van Mourik Broekmanweg and they could not be housed anywhere else, that using the empty floors ‘could be a logical option’. Up to now, Wong knows nothing about ‘concrete plans’. “They are still thinking about it.” The Committee submitted questions to the Dean but has not yet received any answers.

Wong’s office is full of unopened moving boxes. These have nothing to do with current developments, he promises. “I have had to move around this building so often that I always just keep everything in boxes.”

EWI_ruimte_repo_7577_WEB_0.jpgStephan Wong in his office. 

During the move out of the block, the Committee had questioned the disposal of most of the furniture. “Other Committee members and I thought that the old furniture was still usable, but the choice fell on purchasing new furniture,” says Wong.

Wong is worried that the departments will fall apart because of all the moves. He sketches a scenario in which discussions within the departments occur ‘less easily’ because of the ‘distance and walking time’ between the buildings.

Little clarity
In short, there is little clarity about the future of the building. This does not mean that demolition is off the agenda. Nicoly Vermeulen says that “If you build new buildings or do major renovations, you need to house people temporarily. Even if you do ultimately demolish the buildings.”

Rick Plantinga / Freelance redacteur

Editor Redactie

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