Save Britain's Gasometers - Viennese Gasometers Converted to New Homes & Shops

by KathleenDuffy

In the United Kingdom many gasometers are marked for destruction. But in Vienna these industrial structures have been converted into stunning new homes and workplaces

Gasometers are, like factory chimneys, bridges, mines and steam trains, part of the UK’s valuable industrial heritage. Some would argue that with their airy structures silhouetted against the sky, they are also very beautiful.

Unfortunately many gasometers have been demolished and others are under threat. This is true in my own Borough of Haringey in London where a couple of beautiful gasometers are threatened with demolition.

However, the Viennese have come up with an original architectural design which has turned these lacelike spaces into apartments with on site cinemas, gardens and shops.

Personally, I love the gasometers in their original form, and would love to keep them just as they are - but if demolition cannot be avoided then surely the Viennese model could be considered?

What is a Gasometer?

A Beautiful Gasometer in Manchester on Alan Turing Way
A Beautiful Gasometer in Manchester on Alan Turing Way

Gasometers originated in Britain and first appeared around the mid-1800s. They were used to store coal gas which was the new form of heating and lighting used by the cities of the period. Since gas was not nationalised at the time there were many individual gas companies and each urban area and small town had its own gas cylinder for local storage.

With the discovery of natural gas and the improvement in underground gas pipe storage systems, these gigantic relics of the industrial age became redundant. In Britain they have been slowly dismantled, apart from the ones which lovers of the UK’s industrial heritage have managed to preserve.

The same holds true for European gasometers – but in Vienna stunning architectural designs have transformed them into unique living and working spaces. 

Gasometer, Wood Green, London
Gasometer, Wood Green, London

The Viennese Gasometers

Four gasometers in the Vienna district of Simmering have been revitalised. They were originally built in 1899 under the management of Franz Kapaun from the city’s Engineering Department. At the time, they were the largest gasometers in Europe and remained in service until 1986. Once abandoned they began to fall into disrepair.

At one point they were used as a location for the James Bond film, The Living Daylights, as well as being popular music venues for spontaneous raves and concerts . Fortunately, in 1986 Austria’s Heritage Ministry listed them as outstanding examples of industrial architecture.

Plans were made for their rebirth into the modern era, conserving as much of the original structure as possible.

Conversion of Vienna's Gasometers

Interior of a Converted Gasometer in Vienna
Interior of a Converted Gasometer in Vienna

Thankfully it was found that the external facades of the gasometers did not require demolition but could be incorporated into the new construction.

However, parts of the brick piers were in bad condition and had to be taken down and rebuilt, using about one thousand replacement bricks for each gasometer.

In 1995 four architects who had won a competition to find the most original and useful designs for the four structures, were appointed. The idea was to create mixed use space creating round the clock occupancy with space for work, home and entertainment.

Gasometers Converted Into An Urban City

Note brickwork on exterior
Gasometers Converted Into An Urban City, Gasometer City, Simmering, Vienna, Austria, Europe
Inside a Gasometer in Vienna
Inside a Gasometer in Vienna

Each architect created a unique interpretation of a gasometer.

Common features of each gasometer would be:

  • apartments for living to be located at the top
  • workspaces to be constructed in the middle
  • entertainment and shopping malls to be built on the ground.
  • Each shopping mall area was to be connected to the other gasometers’ mall areas by a skybridge.

The architects responsible for the subsequent designs were:

  • Jean Nouvel – he drew attention to the the old and the new within his structure, creating a large indoor plaza. A transparent roof covers the whole area creating light and space.
  • Coop Himmelblau – he created a 22 storeys building on the existing structure
  • Manfred Wehdorn – his terraced construction is eco-friendly and has an indoor garden.
  • Wilhelm Holzbauer – he built a lift and stairs in the centre of the building. From here three sections were divided by indoor gardens.

The completed gasometers also included the following features:

  • over 70 restaurants, bars and cafes
  • multiplex cinema with 12 screens
  • 4200 person capacity events hall
  • daycare centre
  • The Vienna National Archive
  • 11,000 square meters (118,403 sq ft) of office space
  • 615 apartments
  • 230-bed student dorm

You can read more by following this link to the official site.

Visiting the Gasometers

The Viennese gasometers have become such an innovation that guided tours are arranged to take people around all four buildings. Gasometer expert, Andreas Pöschek and his Team take groups round the buildings, including architectural students, senior citizens, schoolchildren and tourists.

The structures have their critics. Yet the Viennese are proud of the transformation of an urban industrial structure in a bleak landscape into a new, modern and vibrant community.



  • The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Website: Case Studies: Gasometer City, Vienna
  • Gasometers: Reimagined as Apartment Community
  • Gasometer, Vienna, Austria - official site
  • BBC News Website, January 29th, 1999 - Condemned: The Great Gasometer

Items Relating to Gasometers

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Updated: 01/24/2014, KathleenDuffy
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KathleenDuffy on 01/25/2014

Hi VioletteRose - I agree! :)

VioletteRose on 01/25/2014

They look great!

KathleenDuffy on 01/23/2014

Ologsinquito - thank you for that! I appreciate it. You are right, they do have beauty.:)

ologsinquito on 01/23/2014

I can see why these are nostalgic structures. There is a certain beauty to them. I'm pinning this to My See the World board.

KathleenDuffy on 01/23/2014

Thank you for your comment - when you are up close to them they are awe-inspiring. I think what the Viennese have done is marvellous as they have created a whole community from these gasometers. :)

WriterArtist on 01/23/2014

I think if the gasometers could be recycled into new homes or malls keeping the architecture intact, they will serve their purpose. I think I understand why you love these huge structures.

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