Almost everyone in Enschede knows someone who has worked in the Van Heek factories or at the Polaroid. The site is part of the collective memory of the city. The buildings play a role in this, but the true value of this heritage lies in the stories of entrepreneurship and hard work.
Enschede’s textile industry started flourishing in the nineteenth century followed the construction of rail links with Germany and the west of the country. The city was the industrial powerhouse of that time, and Van Heek one of the largest companies in the country. After the war, however, textile production quickly disappeared to Eastern Europe and many of the buildings were demolished. Fortunately, the monumental Gebouw Zuid was preserved – one of the first applications of reinforced concrete in the Netherlands where architect Arend Beltman used knowledge from Berlin and thus produced a weaving mill with two floors full of daylight.
Polaroid settled in this building in 1964 to supply the European market. New buildings for the production, assembly and storage of instant film appeared along the old industrial street. Unfortunately, this industry also collapsed. At least, that is how it seemed: a number of former employees gave Polaroid a restart and produce film on the site again.
The economic use is an important part of the identity of the area. This involves flexible use of the buildings: They are constructed, adjusted time and time again, demolished and rebuilt again. This evolution of industrial heritage only stops when the economic value disappears.