The Vynckier family and its pioneering business
Thirdly, the site tells the story of new industrialization. Vynckier, later known as General Electric, ABB, and Vyncolit, played a significant role in this phase.
The Vynckier company was founded by two brothers, Urbain & Maurice Vynckier. Hailing from Izegem and having settled in Schaarbeek after serving during World War I, they embark on a business venture manufacturing copper components for electrical installations.
The youngest brother Gaston had joined the thriving business and the brothers sought to expand their factory. Destination: Gasmeterlaan in Ghent.
Vynckier, a flourishing company at the time and a ‘new’ player in the industry, needs more space and makes its entrance in the empty factory buildings of Pipyn. First major modification: the installation of a large electricity substation on the street.
What makes Vynckier so unique at the time?
They manufacture materials and accessories for low- and medium-voltage electrical installations, including plugs, outlets, lamp fittings, switches, fuses, fuse boxes, cable trays, distribution boards, and more. What sets them apart: they were the first to produce these products from bakelite, using their proprietary type called ‘Vyncolit’ – a thermosetting plastic with a wide range of applications.
1940-1945 // World War II
Vynckier is among one of the casualties of a bombing. The southern facade of the site is destroyed and replaced with wooden windows and an art deco detail. However, it maintains its status as the largest manufacturer of plastics in Flanders. With products essential for the post-war reconstruction and new technologies, demands for plugs, outlets, switch cabinets and electrical accessories grows. Vynckier expands. And expands. And expands.
The 1950s mark a period of growth, as electricity makes its way into private homes + companies modernise their installations. However, the entirely family-owned company faces competition from large foreign players such as France and Germany. The Vynckier family exits and sells the business – becoming part of the British General Electric Company (GEC).
GE (General Electric) takes control over the entire GEC company in Ghent – after a joint venture in 1989 – and establishes Vyncolit NV. Being sold to Swedish Perstorp and part of the Japanese Sumitomo Bakelite since 2005, Vyncolit NV is still active on the Vynckier site in the buildings originally constructed around 1860 by textile manufacturer Parmentier, Hoegaerden, and Cie.
GE sells the Vynckier site to ABB. In early 2019, Revive announces its plans to repurpose the Vynckier site, as ABB intends to move to a new production location.