Gustafson Porter + Bowman: “Changement”, Gustafson Porter’s competition winning scheme for the Westergasfabriek, responded to the park’s master plan by offering diverse spatial and temporal experiences. The Westergasfabriek is a partially dismantled 19th century industrial site with vestiges of its layout intact and preserved in the new concept. The landscape design for the Westergasfabriek park illustrates in a contemporary form man’s changing views and attitude towards the environment and its resulting landscape types. It also highlights the project’s placement between city and nature.
The Industrial Revolution created the background for some of the most devastating pollution. This pollution increased during the Second World War and the subsequent rapid economic rebuild. The ecology movement has been and is a necessary response. This project for a new public park on the heavily contaminated site of a former gas factory presented us with a problem that we could only respond to with an ecological view. Polluted soil could not be taken offsite to create new problems elsewhere. So a cut-and-fill balance was calculated, bringing in new soil to displace polluted soil, retaining existing ground levels around the buildings and creating a new undulating terrain that was the consequence of surplus soil. The use of the park is two-fold, a green park environment and a cultural centre with indoor and outdoor activities. A central promenade ‘The Axis’ links the town hall with the Cite des Artist and a variety of spaces between. The adjacent spaces give it a varied ambience. A mix of native plants and selected varieties express a dynamic between human needs and natural order. At the east end the ambience of the park reflects the more formal traditional garden type. The central area reflects the post-war attitude towards landscape as a support for sports, leisure and recreation. The north-west Overbracker polder reflects the recent past which is representative of a need for a pure nature / ecology approach. The west end reflects current thinking, that environmental harmony must be achieved with man as a participating partner.
At the centre of the park is the Events Field. A great field slopes into a stone-lined lake which can be drained for large events and festivals. Reinforced grass allows for the traffic of equipment for concerts and fairs, yet the fields spacious quality and central location, makes it ideal for family picnics, lazy strolls and casual activities, such as kite-flying, ball games and the energetic games of young children. The Lake and Amphitheatre Mound to its north frame the space. The sculpted amphitheatre shields the park from the noise of the railway and provides a south-facing surface on which to comfortably recline whilst watching activities spread out on the field below, whilst the proximity of water and stepping-stones in the lake make it a perfect area for play on hot summer days. Broadway and the Gas Holders at the North Plaza the Westerpark’s existing large trees extend eastwards as a band of new trees and woodland plants on a mound that runs the length of the park. Broadway slices a diagonal path through these trees; it passes across the central axis just north of the village, before continuing south-west and linking to the circular Aquatic and Water-Lily Pools in former Gas Holders. The character of the woodland planting changes in the vicinity of the Gas Holder pools. New Salix babylonica and alba sistris skirt the edge of the remaining basement structures of the gasholders which have been filled with the worst pollution and capped to become a contemplative water-lily pool and verdant aquatic garden in which floating timber walkways and terraces have been inserted.
Landscape Architecture: Gustafson Porter + Bowman
Client: Projectbureau Westergasfabriek
Westerpark District Council + City of Amsterdam
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Size: 11.5 ha
Status: Completed 2004
Architect: Francine Houben, Mecanoo
Engineer: Arup, Tauw
Structural Engineer: Pieters Bouwtechniek
Contractor: Marcus bv
Project Manager: Northcroft Belgium sa
Consultants: (Specification writer) Bugel Hajima