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At the end of the 19th century, the Imperial Continental Gas Association built two coal gas factory complexes in Amsterdam: the Ooster Gasfabriek (Eastern Gas Factory) and the Wester Gasfabriek (Western Gas Factory). The latter was completed in 1885, strategically located near to waterways, the rail network and access roads. Originally, the gas was used for street lighting.

The director, Julius Pazzani (1841–1888), assumed responsibility for the technicalities of the manufacturing process and for the site itself. The building designs were commissioned from the Amsterdam-based architect Isaac Gosschalk (1838–1907). Gosschalk worked in the picturesque Dutch Neo-Renaissance style he initiated.

In 1898, Amsterdam’s city council took over the running of the factory. Production increased and the site was expanded. Later, gas production was gradually reduced as the city council started sourcing more and more of its gas from Hoogovens in IJmuiden and, from 1963, natural gas from Slochteren. The Westergasfabriek ceased gas production gas in 1967.

By the time the factory shut down, the site was heavily polluted, making it difficult to find a new purpose for the area. In the meantime the GEB, the municipal energy company, used it for storage and as a workshop. From 1992, the buildings were used temporarily for creative and cultural activities. Adventurous entrepreneurs and artists flocked to the site.

It was immediately clear that Westergasfabriek was the ideal location for events such as De Kunstvlaai art fair, the Holland Festival and Awakenings techno parties. It became the meeting place of choice for creative and innovative Amsterdam residents. The site and the creative buzz around it ultimately led to the area becoming a permanently designated cultural zone.

Now, the Westergasfabriek is providing a new surge of energy and light. The redeveloped factory site and the beautifully laid out park are an asset for the local area. Creative entrepreneurs work in the renovated historic buildings and many high-profile events and festivals are held here. The Westergasfabriek is regarded as a model for redevelopment, far beyond the Netherlands’ borders.

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