Müze Gazhane, the Gasworks Museum powering Istanbul again

With the opening of the Müze Gazhane (Gasworks Museum) last July, Istanbul gained an important new cultural centre and public space strongly supported by the local community.

As the name suggests, the complex is located in an Ottoman-era gasworks, in the Hasanpaşa neighbourhood in Kadıköy. Dating back to 1891, the Hasanpaşa Gazhanesi used to provide energy to the entire Asian side of the city, until the switch to natural gas rendered it obsolete and led to its closure in 1993. The renovation represents one of the few successful attempts at reconverting the industrial heritage in town, whereas many idle factories were razed for profit-driven redevelopment or privatized.

The same fate would also have awaited the gasworks, which was to be replaced by shops and residences, were it not for the mobilization of the neighborhood community. Over the course of two decades local residents, organized around the “Gazhane Çevre Gönüllüleri” (Gasworks Environment Volunteers) association, carried on a sustained campaign for the area to remain public and accessible. The association, which articulated its claims around concepts of right to the city, protection of the commons, and environmentalism, managed first to pressure Istanbul Municipality into listing the complex as a heritage site and then into reconverting it as a public space for arts and culture.

Müze Gazhane (Gasworks Museum)
Müze Gazhane, aerial view of the Gasworks Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

Since 2013, the dilapidated industrial structures were restored and repurposed by the Municipality, following a masterplan developed by Istanbul Technical University in collaboration with the neighborhood association. Across its 32.000 sqm, the complex now hosts a variety of functions: six exhibition halls, two stages for theatre and concerts located within the gasometers, a Climate Museum and a Comics Museum, a library, a bookshop, workshops, a study hall, as well as a marketplace and cafeterias. The largest gasometer also includes an observation deck on its upper level.

Overall the reconversion has the merit of avoiding invasive interventions, inserting light-touch additions to existing structures across the site which leave unaltered the volumetric quality of the old industrial complex. Ample open spaces link the different areas and functions within the compound. Among the repurposed buildings, a few structures were restored and maintained as monumental elements, such as the concrete-reinforced coal yard and the imposing steel and brick masonry furnace, which acts as an urban landmark.

Müze Gazhane (Gasworks Museum)
Müze Gazhane, outside structure of the Gasworks Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

Of course, filling such a large-scale complex with functional labels is easier than ensuring it is experienced and enjoyed by the citizenry. At the inauguration of Gazhane, metropolitan mayor Imamoğlu – who took over the project from the previous administration – declared he hoped the former power plant, which has provided Istanbul with energy for more than a century, would now power the city’s cultural and artistic life. With a variegated and high-quality programming, the centre offers a packed calendar of free public events. Among the opening exhibitions, “Towards the City” by Serkan Taycan offers a critical gaze upon Istanbul urbanization through photography, urban exploration and mapping.

The recent history of the Gazhane, from its abandonment to the recent revitalization, runs across three decades in which countless public spaces and historical buildings all over Istanbul were either privatized, disfigured or destroyed by free-rein speculative urban development. Social movements contesting this development logic did emerge, but rarely succeeded in shaping its outcomes. The opening of Müze Gazhane thus becomes especially relevant as an example of fruitful community-based mobilization, heritage conservation, and participatory production of an accessible, nonprofit public space. It is a much needed space where alternative narratives about the city can be debated and concretized, and a sign hope for development in Istanbul in general.

Müze Gazhane (Gasworks Museum)
Architects group:
Istanbul Technical University
Design team:
Afife Batur, Kani Kuzucular, Gülsün Tanyeli, Yıldız Salman, Sevim Aslan, Deniz Aslan and other consultans and students
Execution of works:
Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi
Gazhane Çevre Gönüllüleri (Volunteers for the Environment of Hasanpaşa)
32.000 sqm
Istanbul, Turkey
Completion date:

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