Short of Superlatives at this Massive Venue
This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)
Sometimes, we from GreaterVenues visit locations where we are short of superlatives. That’s definitely the case at the Westergasfabriek – probably the most well known event venue of the Netherlands, here and across the border. This unprecedented popularity is easy to account for when you take a tour through this mini village, where you will be surprised at every corner. That’s exactly what happened to us when we were warmly invited for a grand tour through the wonderful world of the Westergasfabriek.
But for a complete tour we’d need a couple of days: the Westergasfabriek, situated in the lush and green Westerpark, consists of many buildings from the old gasworks that are now used for events, and the many lucky tenants who found a home for their business here. It’s a massive site.
Our tour starts as we make our way to the Westergasfabriek offices onsite, between the many other businesses here. These companies have a number of things in common: they are either innovative, creative, sustainable, or (and preferably) all three. Fair trade chocolate manufacturer Tony’s Chocolonely is one such company which has their office and showroom at the Westergasfabriek. The organization behind the Westergasfabriek prefers to have like-minded companies as their neighbors, so they are critical in giving out the popular tenancy agreements. That’s a smart way to protect the future and vision of the Westergasfabriek.
What catches the eye immediately when walking around the site is how well everything is cared for. The buildings ooze history, but they’ve all been carefully renovated and are very well-maintained. Each building has its own sign with the number and name of the building on it, all in the same style. A caretaker drives around in a golf cart to manage the buildings, while a supplier drives his truck around the spacious site smoothly to make his delivery. The park itself is also very well cared for. Everything here is in harmony.
This harmonious and inspiring environment is in sharp contrast to what this place once was: the Westergasfabriek used to be a gasworks. From the end of the 19th century onwards, gas was processed from coal here. The gas was used for the city lighting of Amsterdam, but the production decreased in the 60s of the previous century, when slowly but surely the city switched to natural gas.
What remained was a heavily polluted site for which the municipality failed to find a purpose. In the 90s, pioneers in the creative sector discovered the mysterious and unique setting of the site and used it for all kinds of cultural projects until in 2003, after years of cleaning up and renovating, the Westergasfabriek was converted into an event venue.
In the past fifteen years, the Westergasfabriek has developed into the inspiring, pleasant, cultural and creative meeting and event venue it is today. It’s for that reason that people from all over the world come here to see just how you can turn a heavily polluted industrial site into a bustling and inspiring place for citizens and national and international visitors alike.
Back to our tour. We make our way to the Machinegebouw (Machine Building), which was once the heart of the factory. From here, gas was pumped across the site to the other buildings. Now, it’s a relatively small event space, well suited for presentations and dinners.
The Kapel (Chapel) can also be found inside this building: a smaller space which is, indeed, reminiscent of a chapel. It’s a popular destination for art exhibitions or small weddings. Large windows make it a bright space.
All old factory buildings at the Westergasfabriek are stripped and fitted with basic facilities. Generally speaking, when you rent an event venue at the Westergasfabriek, you get the building and basic facilities and everything else is up to you. Event managers are completely free in how they wish to decorate their event. Their imagination is the limit.
Zuiveringshal West (West Refinery)
On to Zuiveringshal West: a large, oblong event space of 1200 square meters which is very suitable for fairs. When we take a look inside, some people are very busy with setting up Little Italy – an annual event hosted by ‘The Taste of Italy’, a magazine which has its office on the site as well.
Zuiveringshal West is not just suitable for fairs. Because of the oblong shape, many fashion shows have been held here – which, in the mysterious industrial setting and with a long catwalk, are guaranteed to be successful.
Via ‘The Street’, the Pazzanistraat, the aorta of the Westergasfabriek which connects all the buildings, we make our way to the last building we visit today. The Pazzanistraat has it all: from little restaurants to a cinema, from art galleries to event venues. The fun thing about the Pazzanistraat is that you can make all kinds of combinations for events. Use a couple of buildings that are adjacent to the street for events, roll out the red carpet through the street and you’ve created a great backdrop for any possible event.
Yet, this still isn’t the highlight of our tour. The grand finale of our tour is, as it should be, at the very end. Because it isn’t until the end that we arrive at the most iconic event space of the Westergasfabriek: the Gashouder (Gasholder). When you think of the Westergasfabriek, you think of the Gashouder. The vast round silo is world-famous – at the very least among the international dance-lovers that have been here for the mega dance event Awakenings.
De Gashouder (Gasholder)
The silo is huge: over 2500 square meters allows for a maximum of 3500 people for an event. Across the round ceiling a large steel frame held the gas tank on top in place. Now, they are memories of days gone by, and moreover: they offer a fantastically mysterious setting. Events here are generally grand and compelling, as with Awakenings, but a smaller event works very well too, especially because of the contrast with the grand setting. This is exactly the place where we are short of the aforementioned superlatives: this space is guaranteed to host the most impressive events – and no one will ever forget that ‘he was there’.
The Westergasfabriek is too large to see in a single day, and yet what we did manage to see was already overwhelming. The partnerships with the municipality and other parties, the raw, industrial, exciting and creative event spaces, the excellent maintenance from the organization, the combination of large events and cultural activities, and the incredible conversion from heavily polluted site to sustainable, innovative and creative hotspot, make the Westergasfabriek probably the most popular destination for events of the country. If you haven’t been here yet, go see it today.
This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)