FICI: Framing Industrial City Icons

How have landmarks of Dutch industrial cities been framed as icons during the post-war period? This project analyzes a particular process of representation, ‘iconization’, through three case studies with historical overlap.

Principal investigator
  • Vincent Baptist

Using the Media Suite’s collection materials and tools, this project analyzes a particular process of representation, ‘iconization’, through three case studies with historical overlap: Tilburg’s TextielMuseum, Rotterdam’s Euromast and Eindhoven’s Evoluon.

About the project

Studies of urban icons - recognizable landmarks embodying cities’ identities - have mostly prioritized contemporary and global frameworks (Ethington and Schwartz, 2006), and forgone investigations of local embeddedness, across historical time frames, and pinpointed to particular types of cities (Low, 1996). Industrial cities have frequently boasted prominent architecture and infrastructure linked to local workers’ culture and society (Sennema and Van de Laar, 2021). Prior to WWII, avant-garde artists played an important role in representing and promoting modern industrial landmarks (Paalman, 2011; Van Veen, 2019), while the mid-1990s heralded a new emphasis on cultural significance and ‘starchitecture’ that has led scholars to announce the fall or increasing predictability of icons in urban landscapes nowadays (Kaika, 2011). The post-war period remains underexplored in this respect. To fill this research gap, while building on recent Dutch literature (Verheul, 2012; Bayer et al., 2015), three landmarks from different Dutch industrial cities and with historical overlap will serve as case studies: Tilburg’s TextielMuseum (opened in 1958), located in former factory buildings; Rotterdam’s Euromast (°1960), erected when the port became world leader; and Eindhoven’s Evoluon (°1966), built as tribute to Philips’ history.

Starting from the general understanding of ‘icon’ as ‘something regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration’ (Oxford English Dictionary), the research project builds upon the word ‘frame’ in a double way, namely: framing something visually, by filming or photographing it in certain ways; and framing something discursively, by talking or writing about it in certain ways. This motivates the use of different media collections in the Media Suite - namely the NISV’s television and radio collections and the KB’s newspaper collection - and related tools to annotate and analyze material on the three aforementioned urban industrial icons, in order to investigate how processes of iconization have manifested themselves through different media and potentially evolved over time for the selected case studies. Ultimately, the project’s general goals are to identify recurring visual and discursive tropes across historical media collections, and to formulate new recommendations for audiovisual and textual annotation, analysis, data exportation and visualization.

Project info

  • 1 September 2022


Vincent Baptist
Vincent Baptist

Postdoctoral Researcher, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam