The Evolution of Gasworks and the challenges posed by their redevelopment

Gas was the first practical form of lighting, introduced in British factories in the first decade of the 19th Century. It soon became popular in the lighting of City Street, spreading first across the United Kingdom and then across Europe and Worldwide. The Industry benefited from the knowledge and contribution of engineers and scientists worldwide until its demise from the 1960s onward, with a gradual transition to natural gas. 

The Industry has left a physical legacy of heritage in the form of some surviving structures and an environmental one related to the pollution caused by the Industry during its operation. Gasworks provide a challenge for redevelopment, often due to the hazardous nature of the wastes and by-products produced by the manufacturing processes, further complicated by the presence of surviving structures. Such structures include the buildings involved in the gas manufacturing process or gasholders, often retained long after manufacturing had ceased. The heritage value of these sites can be significant, especially if the structures are still present. They can then provide a link with local communities where they could have operated for over 150 years. 

This presentation seeks to explain the history, including the complex challenges of returning these sites to beneficial reuse, thus maximising their heritage value. 


Learn about the history that is an integral part of Warsaw – Visit the Warsaw Gasworks Museum

The Warsaw Gasworks Museum is a place where history meets modernity. Here, we can learn about the history of not only the capital itself but also the events that influenced the fate of Poland in its entirety.

The Warsaw gasworks was built between 1886 and 1888. It was the largest gasworks in the Polish territories under the partition, consisting of many production and residential buildings of the characteristic, at that time, red brick.

Currently, the area of the former Warsaw gasworks covers about 20 hectares. Most buildings have offices, and the site is not open to the public.

A building accessible to everyone is the Warsaw Gasworks Museum, where we've got the largest gasοmeter in Europe.

In recent years, the facility has been renovated, modernized and equipped with technology that allows, among others, interactive familiarization with the production process of coal gas and related products.

The Warsaw Gas Museum has a varied and unique exhibition, the central part of which includes nineteenth-century devices related to producing gas from hard coal, called "light gas". Old plant machines, photos, documents, historic gas street lamps, and unusual gas-powered devices, including gas refrigerators, irons, curling irons and coffee grinders, are waiting for visitors.


All Roads lead to Rome: From a Unique Industrial Heritage to a Hub for Innovation Development.

The Anglo-Romana Corporation for gas lighting in the city of Rome chose the Ostiense neighborhood to build its headquarters in the early 1900s. This is how the "Officina del Gas di San Paolo" industrial complex was born. The headquarters was characterized by buildings and gasometers developed over the years following the needs of industrial and production processes. Some of the most significant industrial innovations of the era can still be seen today: machines, buildings, technologies, and infrastructures to produce gas from fossil fuel over the time. 

Looking at the future, Eni wants to promote the regeneration of this site by creating a perimeter of innovation (ROAD - Rome Advanced District) through an ecosystem of companies that cooperate to innovate the future of energy according to the principles of circular economy and energy transition goals. 

In this scenario, the gasometers are a landmark symbol for the entire city and identify a new industrial concept. Therefore, Eni's strategy is to incorporate the gasometers into the site regeneration process while strictly adhering to the site's evolution guiding principles and turning it into an innovation hub where new ideas can be transformed into real solutions for a sustainable future. 

Only by changing the way we look at things do the things we look at begin to change.


Gasworks plants in Greece: From operation to reuse

Ten years after the gasworks factory construction in Athens (1862), local authorities in a few other cities in the wider Greek region followed its example, trying to set up similar factories to improve their citizens' living conditions.

Most of the factories built in bigger cities with significant economic and demographic growth were based on the same act, according to which the contractors had to undertake the construction of the factories at their own expense, enjoying duty-free access to raw materials, tools and machinery. An exclusive license was given to foreign companies that possessed the relevant know-how. These companies established gasworks plants in the industrial areas of the cities on land granted by the State.

This presentation attempts to record and evaluate the development of gasworks plants, established both for public lighting and domestic use and operated simultaneously under similar conditions with those in Athens, thus allowing us to compare them and draw conclusions. The first thing to examine is their present state of conservation as well as their current use. Furthermore, the paper will discuss the gasworks factories' contribution to shaping the landscape and socio-economic life of the cities (Athens, Corfu, Patras, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Volos, Hermoupolis and Mytilene).


Reuse and sustainability of the Gasworks of Athens

This presentation indicates the reuse methodologies of the old Gasworks, a unique industrial monument in the centre of Athens that belongs to the Technopolis City of Athens S.A. The Industrial Gas Museum promotes the historical information of the tangible and intangible gas heritage to foster diversity and sustainability, aiming at a museum that is open to the public, accessible, and inclusive. Furthermore, Technopolis owns a well-known cultural space that hosts a significant number of cultural events per year, such as concerts, exhibitions, and festivals. Moreover, the inauguration of Innovathens in 2014 aims to strengthen entrepreneurship, encourage the innovative spirit, and offer opportunities for education and retraining in new technologies and digital skills. This three-pillar approach of Technopolis combines the industrial past with the cultural present and the innovative future aiming at a sustainable and resilient organization in the centre of Athens that has to face the challenges of an ever-changing global environment. 


Suvilahti – From an energy plant to a cultural center

Suvilahti is a unique post-industrial milieu located at the heart of Helsinki. The area was initially built between 1908 and 1910 and was used to provide energy and heat for the city almost until the 1970s. For more than 15 years now, Suvilahti has been a home to a wide range of cultural actors and a venue for major public events and festivals. The former power and gas plant encompasses nine buildings. Some of them have been renovated and repaired according to the needs of their operators, while others are still waiting for repairs. Suvilahti’s tenants range from photographers to a brewery bar and from venues for gigs to circus schools.
Suvilahti also has two large steel and brick gasometers, probably the most widely known local landmarks. The cleaning and refurbishment of these gasometers began in 2016. The first phase was completed when the basic renovation of the smaller gas clock was finished in 2022. The next step is the repair of the steel structures of the bigger gasometer. The gasometers have already been used temporarily for events. After the refurbishment projects, the gasometers can be transformed into more permanent cultural venues. Suvilahti, as an architectural ensemble, is a nationally significant cultural environment and is preserved and protected for future development. Suvilahti is administered by the property management company KAAPELI owned by the city of Helsinki.


Reuse of the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam

The Westergasfabriek gasworks in Amsterdam was built at the end of the 19th century by the British Imperial Continental Gas Association.

From 1990 to 2005, I was the project manager responsible for transforming the site into the world-renowned Culture Park Westergasfabriek.

A heavily contaminated site, 15.000 square meters of heritage buildings and a city government that had promised the people living in the neighbourhood to transform the area into a park. To make things more complex (or if you want more simple), there was no money. What we needed

was a strategy, not a plan.

There were no fast solutions, so I changed priorities. I started by building an organisation, outside of city hall, with its own responsibilities. It had to be flexible and creative. We also started by temporarily using the site to gain time, discover what was possible, and create a buzz.

That is how we learned our most important lesson: it’s not the site with the fantastic buildings and the excellent location that creates the value. It’s what’s going on there.

Today the park is the second-best-visited park in Amsterdam, next to the Vondelpark. In 2004 I won the Golden Pyramid, the State prize for the best project, and in 2010 Westergasfabriek won the Europa Nostra Award.


The Gasholder as a Building Type  

Long before the rising structures of gasholders changed the cityscapes, the gaslight revolutionised daily life in the cities at the beginning of the 19th century. Towards the end of 1813, public illumination from gas was introduced for the very first time in London. 

Gasholders are technical buildings constructed to store locally produced coal gas for lighting in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These emerging iron structures presented a new kind of industrial architecture and became a symbol for the gas industry.

The function of the gasholder determined its structure, and it was initially built with a water-sealed system composed of a water tank, a guide frame and lifts. During the 19th century, the gasholder advanced from the bell- and telescope-type (linear and spiral-guided), working with a water-sealed system, to the waterless or dry gasholders (piston-type gasholders). Thus, a new building type emerged, resulting from the interaction of various disciplines: iron and gas technology, structural engineering and architecture. 

In the 1960s, coal gas was gradually replaced by natural gas, and new storage methods were used. Today, the surviving historic gasholders are industrial relics – many have already been demolished. 

Next to their meaning and history, the remaining gasholders should be considered architectural conversion projects rather than candidates for demolition. 


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