The future use of the gasometers at Suvilahti is still under deliberation, and we do not claim to know best what would be possible or even wisest. However, history is a great teacher, and many examples can be found around the world that could be emulated, at least in part – or we can also learn not to copy.
On the Finnish scale, gasometers are unique constructions – or should we say structures? Their round shape is itself a challenge. Considering also the height of the structures, possible traces of toxic waste and their historic value, coming up with new uses for the gasometers is by no means a straightforward task.
We invite you to help us brainstorm new ideas. If you think of possible ways in which the gasometers at Suvilahti could be used, let us know by sending us an e-mail to suvilahti(at)kaapelitehdas.fi.
We are also keen to hear about other similar gasometer projects around the world. Any photos, internet addresses or even just a link to a map would be a great help to our unofficial research.
Check also the website of Réseau 360 network: www.theatres360.org/101-265-1-Les-lieux
Westergasbabriek is an entire historic gasworks area situated approximately one kilometre to the west of the main railway station. The area has undergone enormous development with major funding to transform it into a centre for creative and cultural activities. There is even an event field, although it is more of a park. Some of the original gasometers have been dismantled, and all the “steel crowns” have been removed. The “Gashouder” measures 60 metres in diameter and around 15 metres in height and is rented out empty for events and performances.
This steel framed gasometer is situated in a partially preserved gasworks area just inside the ring road in the Schöneberg district of Berlin. A major renovation is planned to convert the area for other uses, perhaps by the umbrella organisation for the gas producers. The website includes a cool video of the event space that has been built inside the gasometer. The steel frame also has LED lights that can be used as a screen. The structure has been restored so that one day people will be able to climb up to the top to admire the views.
This renovated gasometer houses the local city theatre a couple of kilometres outside the city centre. The diameter is approximately 45 metres and the height 26 metres. Service facilities are situated in a new extension, which is connected to the gasometer by a tunnel. The theatre has around 800 seats, and the stage is up against a wall and not in the middle. Beneath the stage are toilets, workshops and other support facilities.
This is the only gasometer that we know of that has been converted into an indoor diving centre. Built in the 1920s, the gasometer has a diameter of 45 meters and a closed height of 13 metres. It is situated by the Industrial Heritage Route in the Ruhr Valley. The gasometer is part of a steel factory that was recently transformed into a museum with cultural activities in some of the buildings.
Back in the 1980s a group of diving enthusiasts received permission to fill up the gasometer with water, sink a couple of cars in it and use it for amateur divers to train in. The diving centre is still going strong, although it is administratively separate from the other parts of the factory. It also has to battle constantly against corrosion and leaks – considering that it holds 20 million litres of water, it’s easy to see why.
The technical solutions, prices and general legality of the operations were somewhat unclear during our visit, but we did see a practice session for young people starting right on time.
The gasometer is also used for underwater filming, although the inside walls are not painted for green screen use. According to our expert sources, the best place in Europe for underwater filming is in Malta. The pool there is shallower but wider, which is better for filming; what is important is not so much the depth but rather maximising the distance between the camera, object and back wall. The pool in Malta was even used for filming Titanic.
This complete gas plant area has two gasometers that are now used for theatre performances. One has a diameter of 26 metres and height of 12 metres, while the other has a diameter of 25 metres and a height of 8 metres. Both gasometers have flexible seating and stage areas, as well as support facilities underground and in the neighbouring buildings. The users are independent theatre groups and organisers of fairs and other events. The other buildings are also being renovated with municipal and EU funds, somewhat in the same way as Suvilahti is being developed. The area is located a few kilometres from the modestly sized town centre.
Leipzig and Dresden
In Leipzig and Dresden a gasometer has been transferred into a commercial exhibition space where it is possible to display 360 degree panoramas designed by the artist Yadegar Asisi.
The Leipzig Panometer occupies a disused telescopic gas holder in Connewitz.
Photos from Leipzig:
This gasometer is over 60 metres in diameter and over 100 metres in height. It was converted into an exhibition space in the 1990s. The idea is that one German artist at a time creates a special exhibition for the centre.
The gasometer is situated in the Ruhr Valley outside a small town, but it is still a major tourist attraction. And why not?
An exit route and elevator system have been built on the outside, and there is another elevator on the inside – albeit a panoramic one. The entrance is simple, with just a couple of emergency exit stairwells and that’s it – almost.
As part of a space exhibition, a metallic intermediate floor was built on top of the support structures of the old gasometer. As a result, the entrance is around 5 metres off the ground and has lots of support structures. Above the steel floor there are more support structures, in the middle another elevated area, and then an enormous empty space up to the skylights in the ceiling. The space is kept dark for the space exhibition, and in the middle hangs a replica of the moon with a diameter of 20 metres.
The panoramic elevator on the inside takes you up to the ceiling and out onto the roof, where you can enjoy impressive views in all directions.
Norra Djurgårdsstad is very close to Stockholm’s “Kalasatama” project. Over the next 20 to 30 years around 30,000 workplaces and 10,000 apartments will be created in the area. At the heart of the area is a gas plant that a group of local actors and officials plan to turn into a cultural centre.
There are four gasometers altogether: two historic redbrick ones, one steel telescope one and one enormous enclosed steel tower. The last of these will be replaced by an even taller tower block, but the redbrick buildings will be retained and there are plenty of plans.
The renovation of the main stage of the royal opera should have already transformed the 65-metre diameter gasometer into a 950-seat auditorium at a cost of SEK 105 million. However, problems arose with the schedules, funding and acoustics.
Otherwise the area has typical gas plant buildings that still produce gas by Finnish company Fortum. Without a gas pipeline from Russia, the gas has to be made in the traditional way. Ballet, opera, art, a library and a museum are all planned. Time will tell – the area is twice as large as Suvilahti, but it lacks an operator.
The gasometer in Turku was built in 1913 and clearly inspired by the gasometer in Suvilahti. The diameter and height are smaller, however, at around 30 metres and 25 metres, respectively.
An interesting book has been written about the colourful history of gas production in Turku, including detailed information about the gasometer’s architecture and engineering (Sanna Kupila – Turun kaasukellot, Turun maakuntamuseo 2006).
The current use of the area is also quite interesting. The gasometer was saved from demolition and deterioration by the local power company Turun energia, which came up with the idea of using the gasometer as a thermal battery for the district heating network. The gasometer can easily hold a few million litres of 100-degree water in its own container, as well as all the piping and other technology required.
Steel and glass structures have also been used to create public spaces inside. The upper area is still vacant, and a café or restaurant operator has been sought for the past few years. The somewhat peripheral location and strangely built district in the middle do not help matters. Still, the facilities do have elevators, staircases and all the required building technology.
The attic is an unheated open space that did not prevent the Turku Music Festival foundation from holding two apparently successful concerts there in 2010
Next to the gasometer is a cool spherical gas pressure equalisation chamber. The riveting on the steel plates is particularly impressive and was apparently done by the father of the present head of the district heating department of Turku Energia.
Gasometer City is a district of Vienna that was built around four gasometers, each with a diameter in excess of 60 metres. Situated a couple of kilometres from the city centre, the heavily modified gasometers house apartments, a shopping centre, a multiplex cinema and a concert/event hall with over a thousand seats. The historic gasometers have also been mated to modern architecture. The result is very impressive, and there is even a metro station underneath one of the gasometers.