Last Sunday I went to a special cinema, Het Ketel Huis in a complex called Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam West. For a long time I paid attention to this industrial heritage because of its project scale which took a long process and periods to accomplish it. It happened I listened to the story of the project leader last year who told stories how complicated the whole process was but they made it at the end.

The Westergasfabriek was constructed in 1883 by the British Imperial Continental Gas Association. At the time it was the largest gas works in Amsterdam. During the first decades the gas was used principally for public lighting. Most of the Westergasfabriek buildings were designed by Isaac Gosschalk, in a variation on the 'Dutch Renaissance' style. The Gashouder was designed by engineer Klönne.

After the discovery of natural gas in the 1960's at Slochteren, in the north of the country, gas production was terminated. Part of the buildings were demolished, amongst which the beautiful water tower. Until the early 1990s the municipal energy company used the premises for storage and repairs and as a garage for utility vehicles. In 1989 the remaining buildings were officially recognised as industrial monuments and saved from demolition.

After the municipal energy company had abandoned the premises in 1990, they were used temporarily for creative and cultural activities, an approach that proved very successful. An inspiring mix emerged of art and daily life, of permanent and temporary rental for all sorts of events, such as festivals, commercials, fashion shows, opera and circus performances.

As a result the Westergasfabriek became known as a cultural epicentre in Amsterdam and far beyond Dutch borders. This temporary definition of the use of buildings and of the conceptions of park, culture and activity were the basis for drawing up the development project for the Westergasfabriek in 1996. In the year 2003, the park was opened. After that, one by one, the buildings are being renovated and put back in use.

For more fascinating stories about the process of redevelopment see this link.

(resources : www.westergasfabriek.nl)


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