Light town forever

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Gloeilampen Philips

Initially, Philips made Eindhoven the global center of light bulb production. By 1980, Eindhoven had again moved to the margins of what had become an European light bulb production infrastructure, transitioning into an administrative center for Philips.

The electric lamp became the main light source of the twentieth century. The successful worldwide introduction of new types of bulbs contributed strongly to Philips’ growth into a multinational organization. Philips produced several metal wire lamps, followed by gas discharge lamps and, more recently, so-called low-energy light bulbs. The symbol of this innovation is the Eindhoven Lichttoren, with its test rooms for lamps.

The Dutch industry distribution policy in the 1950s forced some of the bulb factories out of Eindhoven. Philips later moved its production to lower-wage countries like Italy and Spain and to post-Soviet Eastern Europe. The production network was Europeanized, but would not move beyond European borders as this would have generated excessive transport costs.

Eindhoven’s few remaining test factories and labs disappeared after 2000. Only the Lichttoren remained as a kind of souvenir of the town’s past.

However, Eindhoven wished to retain the name “Light Town”. The city introduced the annual Glow festival, featuring special light effects, experiments with sound and film, and electronic music. Glow is part of a circuit of international light festivals in Lyon, Geneva and Lisbon, which attract tens of thousands of visitors each year.

How to cite this page


Hans Schippers, 'Light town forever', Inventing Europe,


  1. Hesselmans, Ton. “Elektriciteit.” In Techniek in Nederland in de 19de eeuw, edited by Harry Lintsen, 135-161. Zutphen: 1993.
  2. Metze, Marcel. “Eindhoven: the Lichttoren.” In W. van den Doel, Plaatsen van herinnering, 58-71. Amsterdam: 2005.
  3. Schippers, Hans. “Eindhoven, lichtstad voor altijd.” Groniek, Hollands Lichtnummer, (2012): 167-179.

This tour is related to the temporary Exhibition in the Boerhaave Museum



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About this tour


Eindhoven: Bulbs, Brains, and Design

In the course of a century, Eindhoven developed from a regional trade center to a global technological hub. Philips, car and truck factory DAF, and subsequently VDL Group and Philips offshoots ASML, FEI, and Neways Electronics made the city famous for technology and innovation. While design became another of the city’s trademarks, innovation center Brainport is working hard to secure the region’s future in valorizing knowledge.

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