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Then: Gas Storage Tanks; Now: Home

The gasometers are four gigantic cylindrical gas tanks that were built as part of Vienna’s municipal gas works, Gaswerk Simmering, in 1896. These gas tanks are enclosed by a red brick façade, each standing approximately 230 feet tall, 197 feet in diameter, and once had a storage capacity of over 3 million cubic feet.

Coal gas was dry-distilled from coal and was stored in these gas containers before it was distributed into Vienna’s gas network. Coal gas was mainly used to provide townsfolk with street lights but in 1910, its use for cooking and heating in homes was introduced.
In 1984, the gasometers were decommissioned as new technologies in gasometer construction emerged and the city shifted from coal gas to natural gas. The gasometers were no longer used and were permanently shut down. However, due to its one-of-a-kind architecture, these structures were officially classified as heritage buildings in 1981, and thus evaded demolition.

After being decommissioned, the plant was used for various purposes, including a set in the hit James Bond movie, The Living Daylights, and as a rave venue hosting the Gazometer Raves. The sound produced in these giant structures reverberated and exhibited a special echo that was popular among ravers in attendance.

The gasometers have found new use in modern times. Vienna eventually refashioned and revitalized these protected monuments; and in 1995, the city called for ideas for the new use of these structures. The designs for each of the gasometers are unique and were carefully chosen through a competition. The creative minds behind these designs were internationally renowned architects Jean Nouvel, Coop Himmelblau, Wilhelm Holzbauer and Manfred Wehdorn. The renovation was completed between 1999 and 2001.

Formerly the largest gas plant in all of Europe, these structures have now become a complex of municipal, commercial and residential facilities. The official grand opening of the gasometers took place on October 30, 2001. However, people started moving in as early as May of the same year, right after the structures were completely refurbished.

The gasometers have developed a truly one-of-a-kind village character, and are a “city within a city”. Each of the gasometers is divided into several zones for living. There are over 800 apartments in the top floors, an 11,000-square meter office space in the middle floors, and commercial and entertainment hubs in the ground floors. The shopping mall levels are connected in each gasometer by sky bridges. Other indoor facilities include a 230-bed student dormitory, a municipal archive (The Vienna National Archive), a multiplex cinema with 12 screens, a music hall with a capacity of 2,000 – 3,000 people, and many more. Most of the new complex is constructed within the old gas tanks, which – unlike most modern storage tanks – were designed to complement the cityscape with their brick walls, domed windows and white plaster trim.

A true sense of community has developed over the years. Both a large physical housing community, as well as an active online community (Gasometer Community) have formed. A number of theses, studies and dissertations in psychology, urban planning, architecture and journalism have been written about this remarkable social phenomenon.

Photos courtesy of Andreas Poeschek

TNphoto Tatsuya Nakagawa
Tatsuya Nakagawa is the VP of Marketing and co-founder of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings, cold weather tank coating applications, and its durable frac tank coatings. Castagra is used by the world’s top oil and gas field services companies.