Is the solution to obsolescent gasholders demolition, building housing developments within them or, perhaps best yet, parks?
When coal gas began to be produced at a commercial scale in the early 19th century, the gas holder or gasometer was quickly developed as a place to store gas and thereby regulate supply. The telescopic gas holder followed in the 1820s – once a familiar, but now increasingly rare sight due to the introduction of natural gas and improved pipelines, which mean users can be supplied directly. This obsolescence raises the difficult question of what to do with these impressive structures. In Britain, power companies have begun to remove them at breakneck speed; Southern Gas reported in 2013 that they planned to demolish 111 of the structures over the next 16 years. Other uses have been attempted, including housing: in Vienna in 2001, for instance, and more recently at King’s Cross. These gas holders once supplied much of central London; now they contain enormously expensive luxury flats. The challenge of forcing a square peg into a round hole has been gamely tackled by Wilkinson Eyre, but one cannot help but find the neighbouring example, left as a bare structure and filled at ground level by a small circular park, to be less silly.