The Gasometers in Vienna are four former gas tanks, each of 90,000 m³ storage capacity, built as part of the Vienna municipal gas works Gaswerk Simmering in 1896–1899. They are located in the 11th district, Simmering. They were used from 1899 to 1984 as gas storage tanks. After the changeover from town gas to natural gas between 1969–1978, they were no longer used and were shut down. Only the brick exterior front walls were preserved. The structures have found a new use in modern times.
The Gasometers were built from 1896 to 1899 in the Simmering district of Vienna near the Gaswerk Simmering gas works of the district. The containers were used to help supply Vienna with town gas, which had previously been provided by the Inter Continental Gas Association (ICGA) in England. Once the contracts with the ICGA expired, the city decided to construct facilities to handle its own gas needs. At the time, the design was the largest in all of Europe.
The Gasometers were retired in 1984 due to new technologies in gasometer construction, as well as the city's conversion from town gas and coal gas to natural gas. Gas can be stored underground or in modern high-pressure gas storage spheres under much higher pressures and in smaller volumes than the relatively large gasometers. In 1978, they were designated as protected historic landmarks.
During the years after their decommission, they were used for various purposes, including being used as a setting in the movie James Bond: The Living Daylights and as a venue to host the Gazometer-Raves. Sound in the large round structures reverberated and exhibited a special echo that was popular to the ravers, and the term Gazometer was well-known in the scene.
Vienna undertook a remodelling and revitalization of the protected monuments and in 1995 called for ideas for the new use of the structures. The chosen designs by the architects Jean Nouvel (Gasometer A), Coop Himmelblau (Gasometer B), Manfred Wehdorn (Gasometer C) and Wilhelm Holzbauer (Gasometer D) were completed between 1999 and 2001. Each gasometer was divided into several zones for living (apartments in the top), working (offices in the middle floors) and entertainment and shopping (shopping malls in the ground floors). The shopping mall levels in each gasometer are connected to the others by skybridges. The historic exterior wall was conserved. One of the ideas rejected for the project was the plan by architect Manfred Wehdorn to use the Gasometers for hotels and facilities for the planned World Expo in Vienna and Budapest.
On 30 October 2001, the mayor attended the official grand opening of the Gasometers, but people had begun moving in as early as May 2001.
The Gasometers are four cylindrical telescopic gas containers, each with a volume of about 90,000 m³ seated in a water basin; each is enclosed by a red-brick facade. They are each 70 meters tall and 60 meters in diameter. The Gasometers were gutted during the remodelling and only the brick exterior and parts of the roof were left standing.
Coal gas was dry-distilled from coal and was stored in these containers before it was distributed into the city gas network. The "town gas" was originally used only by the street lamps, but in 1910, its use for cooking and heating in private homes was introduced.
The Gasometers today
The Gasometers have developed a village character all their own and are a city within a city. A true sense of community has developed, and both a large physical housing community (of tenants) as well as an active virtual internet community (Gasometer Community) have formed. Numerous theses and dissertations in psychology, urban planning, journalism and architecture have been written about this phenomenon.
Indoor facilities include a music hall (capacity 2000–3000 people), movie theater, student dormitory, municipal archive, and so on. There are about 800 apartments (two thirds within the historic brick walls) with 1600 regular tenants, as well as about 70 student apartments with 250 students in residence.