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Grandma Ria Otten (67) and grandson Julian Joosten (7) are 60 years apart. Yet the Evoluon is an iconic place for both of them. Ria grew up in the Eindhoven district of Strijp and visited the first exhibition in the Evoluon as an 11-year-old girl. Together with her grandson, she takes an anno 2023 look at the exhibition RetroFuture, made possible by the Regio Deal. In ten tunnels full of fiction and fact, the visions of past future thinkers are on display.
Julian Joosten, a cheerful seven-year-old young man, enters the Evoluon on this Wednesday afternoon, already hopping. Hand in hand with his grandmother Ria, he cannot wait for this special outing. He immediately gazes at the DeLorean car from the film Back to the Future, which was labelled futuristic in the 1980s. Soon after, he is already running up the stairs: 'Come grandma! We're going on a scavenger hunt!'
For a long time, Eindhoven struggled with its most iconic building: the Evoluon, which was opened to the public in 1966 on Philips' 75th anniversary with a permanent exhibition on science, technology and society. In later decades, the building served as a conference centre with no public function. Now the doors are wide open again. Partly due to the support of the Regio Deal, the Evoluon has been hosting the RetroFuture exhibition since September 2022. Visitors like Ria and Julian are taken into the experiences of (former) future thinkers, dreamers and artists with design, art, science and film in a playful setting.
While Julian does all kinds of scavenger hunt assignments on all four rings (floors) of the building, grandma Ria recounts her memories of when, as a little girl, she visited the Evoluon with her primary school. Ria: 'That visit made a big impression on me. The amazement began outside: the building was lit all purple at the bottom. Magnificent! Inside, I remember the simulation of nerve activity: I could make a stuffed frog's leg move. And in the basement was a metal tube that gave electric shocks. It scared me so much that I cried horribly!'
Today, 55 years later, Julian is running from tunnel to tunnel at RetroFuture. On ring 1, one of the topics is about an ancient dream of the future: flying like a bird. Julian points to a kind of kite hanging at the top of the ridge of the Evoluon. 'I think they flew that a hundred years ago. I want to learn to fly too, but just like a bird. Then I can go anywhere, including Candy Land. I want to live there later! Everything there is made of candy: pink cakes, chewing gum and lollipops.'
What was grandma's dream anyway when she was a little girl? Julian has an idea: 'That the TV wasn't black and white, but in colour. And I think she wanted to be a mum. My mum's mum.' Ria laughs. 'That's right. Other than that, I didn't really have any clear dreams for the future. In my working life, I started working with PR and information at the predecessor of Brainport Eindhoven. It was called Stimulus at the time; we were trying to pull Eindhoven's economy out of the doldrums. Here in the Evoluon, I organised various symposia. In that respect, today has really come full circle!'
While Julian is running around among robots, building a tower and peering at miniature means of transport from earlier times, the exhibition is a feast of recognition for Ria. 'My past comes back here. What seemed strange a short while ago is familiar today. Once again, I realise how much has changed in my life. We used to have a coal stove and one Bakelite telephone for the whole neighbourhood!' No screens, in other words. Can Julian imagine that? 'Yes he can! Instead of gaming, we'd just play board games. We already do that at grandma's place and it's great fun!' The RetroFuture exhibition can be visited until March 2024. Tickets are available at