Agile City is a project based in Speirs Locks, north Glasgow. A post-industrial area undergoing significant change with arts and culture at its core. We are currently working collaboratively with local organisations to set up the Glasgow Canal Project – a local co-operative to support the democratic development of the area. As part of this process we’re interested in looking towards other initiatives to deepen our understanding of how buildings, areas and cities can be reimagined through creative and cultural activity. We have written a series of 5 posts that explore this theme including; this one looking at L’île de Nantes in France; NDSM in Amsterdam; Hackney Wick and Fish Island in London, Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam; and Le Quartier des Spectacles in Montreal.
In the 19th century, the Imperial Continental Gas Association built four factories in the North, South, East and West of the city. The gas extracted from the coal in these buildings were used to power the street lights. With technology evolution, the need for coal-driven power declined, and eventually the production was stopped in 1967. In the 1980, the City of Amsterdam started to think about redevelopment for this place, the idea of a park was soon discussed, but the high pollution level on the site was a big problem.
During this time, the endless possibilities offered by the space and the buildings saw a lot of pioneer uses in the field of music, arts and creative industries using this place as an experimentation laboratory. To avoid the loss of control and possibly the building’s abusive squatting, a “temporary-use project leader” was appointed in 1993 to curate the projects and organise the rotation of the spaces. Instead of one year, the temporary cultural projects lasted until 2001 when the clean up and the redesign of the park began. Patterns for temporary use thus became the pattern for the permanent use.
The Gasworks were re-opened as the “Culture Park Westergasfabriek” in 2003 and are now a vibrant creative hub. The unusual projects this year included the Helicopter String Quartet, Theo Jansen’s gigantic ‘tube animals’ and the theatre production ‘The fall of Mussolini’. (source)
Although some buildings were destroyed by the closure of the Gas Production, a few were listed and savd. Between strictly industrial and more administrative purposes, each building now embodies a new function.
The purification building: two high halls, the oxide storage area is now converted in studios for rental and hired for events.
The Gasholder: a circular tank of 100,000m2 that served as a storeroom is now hired for theatre productions, parties, conferences.
The Bosess’ houses: the accommodations for the overseers of the fabrik is now a day-care surrounded by the park.
Nurah Abdulkadirin, Head of Marketing & Communication at the WesterGasFabriek spoke as part of the VELOCITY Talks series in Glasgow in 2014 – watch it here
To learn more about history of the site, the regeneration process and the building reconversion see here
To have a look at the event programme and type of tenants, click here