London’s historic gasometer reborn as a public green space


As the not-so-warm sentiment continues to grow over London’s Garden Bridge (Lloyd recently covered TreeHugger’s latest drama with an exhaustive list of all prohibited activities), a decidedly less contentious public green space has quietly opened up in a vast industrial redevelopment zone – or “opportunity zone” as the city leaders call it – just north of King’s Cross station in central London.

An end-to-end adaptive reuse project, the park breathes new life into a 19th-century utilitarian storage structure used for decades to help heat drafty apartments and keep London’s iconic lampposts on fire. And from what I can tell, park enthusiasts can feel free to do things like pontificate and play musical instruments without having a boot.

Located along the Regent’s Canal, not far from an urban swimming pool cleaned by plants and a German restaurant set up in England’s very first gymnasium, London has just been unveiled Gasholder Park is simple, elegant, monumental, a bit peculiar: a wide circular strip of lawn surrounded by a shiny mirrored pavilion with a perforated roof. The lawn and pavilion are surrounded by the imposing cast iron skeleton of a 19th century gasometer.

What is a gasometer?

Old gasometers are still standing across Europe. Among the most iconic is this gasometer built in 1853 near the famous Oval cricket ground in south London.
(Photo: Edward G. Malindine / Thematic News Agency / Getty Images)

So, what is a gasometer, you ask?

Also called gasometers although many not gas meters, these cylindrical – and generally telescopic – structures used to store town gas (coal gas) are relatively rare in North America * nowadays but are still common in Europe where, in some municipalities, services public continue to use the squat silo. buildings for the storage of natural gas. Although their numbers are dwindling as National Grid and other utilities demolish structures and sell the land to developers keen on reclamation, former gas holders are still particularly plentiful in cities across the UK. It is here that a preservation movement is underway to spare those obsolete Victorian remains made unnecessary by advances in the storage and distribution of wrecking ball gas.

Sentinels of the industrial age

Gasholder Park will eventually be flanked by three apartment buildings, all surrounded by the cast iron frames of other former London gasometers.
(Photo: John Sturrock / King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership)

In addition to a fantastic bbc primer about these endangered ‘Industrial Age Sentinels’ it is worth reading ‘A Love Letter to Gas Holders’, a beautiful tribute published by a King’s Cross area cultural website titled, go figure, Gasometer. It reads:

When you see an abandoned iron cylinder towering over the horizon, how do you feel? Two hundred years after their appearance across the country, gasometers, once a practical necessity to illuminate the nights of the 19th century, have become a striking visual link to our past. But if not, they are no longer of practical use.

Over the past decade, hundreds of them have been demolished, their redundancy in the modern world seeming absolute. To some people, it’s little more than decrepit industrial horrors, an annoyance crouching over a slice of prime real estate.

Yet for many of us, they were proud urban landmarks, real-world map markers that guided our time in the city before – and after – the arrival of the skyscrapers, and our pockets contained the astonishing compass. a GPS phone.

Should we save at least a few? Famous for their ancient energetic history, as well as for their aesthetic sailing properties and curiously beautiful?

Outside London, many European gasometers have indeed been saved and reused in spectacular fashion in recent years.

Vienna’s historic brick gasometers are just as iconic as they have ever been, having reborn in 2011 as a residential and commercial complex.
(Photo: Pascal Terjan / flickr)

In the German cities of Dresden and Leipzig, artist Yadegar Asisi transformed the inner hulls of two deceased gasometers into stunning panoramas. Another German gasometer, Gasometer Oberhausen, continues to be an exhibition space that has twice served as a blank canvas for Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Copenhagen’s Øster Gasværk Teater, built in 1883 as the Danish capital’s second gasometer, is today a renowned venue for the performing arts. But perhaps the most famous of Europe’s recycled gasometers are the Vienna Gasometers, a quartet of historic structures converted into a dazzling mixed-use complex with a shopping center connected to an air bridge topped with office and shopping space. apartments.

Gasholder Park

Conceived by Bell Phillips Architects with landscaping by Studio Dan Pearson (also involved in Garden Bridge), London’s Gasholder Park – a “beautiful juxtaposition of old and new” – is a gasometer-centric adaptive reuse project, simpler but no less spectacular than its continental counterparts.

“Gasholder Park combines the industrial heritage of King’s Cross with contemporary architecture to create a unique location,” says Hari Phillips of Bell Phillips in a Press release issued by King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership. He goes on to describe the project as “both a daunting responsibility and an opportunity not to be missed.”

Rising over 80 feet into the sky and measuring 130 feet in diameter, the structure defining the park itself is the No. 8 Gasometer, which was erected in the 1850s as part of Pancras Gasworks, the most large gas plant in the world at the time. The iconic container guided by columns, which later appeared in a Oasis Video some 140 years after its construction, it could hold up to 1.1 million cubic feet of gas when in use.

Decommissioned in 2000 to make room for new developments, the structure’s circular guide frame (16 hollow cast iron columns on two levels) was carefully dismantled piece by piece in 2011 and transported to Yorkshire for a process of repair and repair. two-year restoration overseen by Shepley Engineers. The structure was then returned to King’s Cross (about half a mile north of its original location where Pancras Square now stands) and reassembled next to Regent’s Canal where it overlooks a lush green lawn surrounded by a canopy sleek disc-shaped made from stainless steel. The sheltered benches provide a place of respite, while the landscaping on the outskirts of the setting “offers color, texture, sensory stimulation and seasonal variation”.

In addition to serving as the addition of a strip of greenery to a massive regeneration project, Gasholder Park will host special events.
(Photo: John Sturrock / Kings Cross Central Limited Partnership)

Anthony Peter, project manager at the developer of the Argent site, describes Gasholder Park as “an unusual and vast space, with a character best appreciated standing in the middle of the lawn, looking at the gasometer frames.”

Noting that the park is open “all day, every day, to everyone” (do I detect some shade cast in the direction of Garden Bridge?) 8 “one of the more complex projects and the most difficult to do at King’s Cross to date, and very satisfying to see completed.

The park represents only a small portion of the 40 percent of the redeveloped land dedicated to open spaces generated during the revamp of King’s Cross.

What’s a park with a gasometer without a trio of buildings with a gasometer?
(Photo: Wilkinson Eyre)

What’s a park with a gasometer without a trio of buildings with a gasometer? (Render: Wilkinson Eyre)

In the years to come, Gasholder No.8 will be reunited with Gasholders No.10, 11 and 12 which have also been carefully dismantled, their cast iron guide frames (123 columns in total!) Shipped to Yorkshire for repair and refurbishment. The so-called former “triple Siamese” of Pancras Gasworks will end up locking up a joint trio of ring-shaped apartment buildings flanking the park by the canal. Residents living in the Wilkinson eyre-The more than 140 units of the designed complex will benefit from rooftop gardens, an open courtyard, proximity to a plethora of bars and restaurants, and easy access to the most gas-filled park in all of London.

* In the United States, old-fashioned gasometers are generally associated with the city of St. Louis, although the most (un) famous American gas storage tank was located in Pittsburgh, the site of a fatal gasometer explosion in 1927 which killed more than two dozen people. At the time, the Pittsburgh gas field was the largest in the world. Also note: the term “gasometer” was coined by William Murdoch, the Scottish inventor of gas lighting. The BBC notes that many of Murdoch’s contemporaries dismissed the term as misleading, but it was too late … the gasometer was stuck.


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