Architects: Isaac Gosschalk (1838-1907) and Julius Pazzani (1841-1888)
Commissioned by: Imperial Continental Gas Association
Years of construction: 1883-1885.
At the end of the 19th century, the old city centre was bursting at the seams and companies were establishing themselves outside the city walls. The polder landscape on the west side acquired a distinctly industrial character. Maggi’s soup flavouring factory and N.V. Electra, the first Dutch steam power station, sprang up along the Haarlemmerweg, for example. It was at this spot the Westergasfabriek was built.
The purification building, 1996
The Westergasfabriek (Wester Gasworks) is one of the most important 19th century industrial complexes in the Netherlands. It was from these grounds that coal gas was pumped into homes for the first time in Amsterdam. The coal could easily be delivered here by rail and across the water from the Haarlemmertrekvaart (barge-canal). The production process can still be discerned due to the preservation of (for example) the Zuiveringsgebouw (Purification Building) and the Ketelhuis (Boiler House). The grounds of the Westergasfabriek have now developed to become a Culture Park.
In his design, the Dutch architect Isaac Gosschalk wanted to lend the utilitarian buildings a visually appealing form. In that regard he allowed himself to be inspired by the Dutch Neo-Renaissance. This can be seen from the picturesque architecture, which is evident from the varied colour, light effects and ornate details.
The Westergasfabriek (gasworks) to the left of the Haarlemmervaart
In order to be able to make gas, the coal was heated in the Ketelhuis (Boiler House) to 1,200 degrees. In the Zuiveringsgebouw (Purification Building) the gas was purified and from the Machinegebouw (Machine Building) the transport over the grounds was controlled. The gastanks, of which there were four originally, were for storage and the gas was pumped into the city using pipes in the Regulateurhuis (Regulator House).
The gas holder under construction, 1953. Photo: ANP
Since 2002 the grounds have been a Culture Park where there is room for film, theatre, music and art. For traditional bread and high tea there is the Bakkerswinkel (Bakers Shop), for lunch or dinner there is café/restaurant Pacific Parc and for an evening out there is the Flex Bar. Nowadays the Ketelhuis is home to a cinema.