Gasometers Vienna, hotography:  Böhringer Friedrich
Vienna’s Gasworks. Photography: Böhringer Friedrich

Gasholders have long fuelled our imaginations. Featured in film, art and literature, their striking geometry, rugged charm, and old-fashioned Victorian grandeur have proved a constant source of inspiration for creatives.

Built largely during the 19th century to power street lights, these behemoths of industry have become obsolete 150 years on. Many have been taken down – not all are historically significant and the cost to redesign them is often very high – while others lie empty and neglected. But they’re not altogether unloved.

Visionary developers have taken on the task of repurposing these friendly giants for the 21st century, calling upon architects to transform them into new homes, workspaces and even cultural centres.

It’s long and intricate work to restore them, but the gasholders’ distinct features – their brick skins and heavy cast iron frames – ensure plenty of character. Their large shells make them the perfect candidates for art galleries and performance spaces.

Though their round footprint may be unusual, these structures hold exciting opportunities, as Wilkinson Eyre Architects discovered while working on a new housing project that incorporates a trio of Victorian gasholders in London’s King’s Cross. ‘You tend to not choose to build a round building, but it’s really been quite advantageous for us because it’s allowed us to create a different type of space,’ they say.

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