The Gasometer in Oberhausen is an old gasometer
. In fact, it is the largest gas holder of its type ever constructed in Europe. In the past, gasometers like these were used to temporarily store gas
, in this case gas from the coking
ovens. However, with ubiquitous natural gas
, this function soon became obsolete. Instead of demolishing it, it was turned into an industrial
monument. But, what can one do with an old, decommissioned gas holder?
The Gasometer today
It turns out that one can do a lot with an old gas holder. You see, a gas holder of this type - a so-called disc-type gas holder - is essentially a huge metal cylinder with a floating metal disk on top. "Huge" in this case means nearly 118 meter high and nearly 68 meter in diameter. One could, for instance, use it as a lookout tower. Indeed, a lift is installed that will take you through the bowels of this huge cavernous monster to the top, allowing you to see very far.
However, there is more. A gasometer is essentially an air-tight cylinder. As such, there is no outside light, or sound, or pretty much anything else coming in. It acts as a 350 million litre womb. It has to be experienced. Basically, when entering it, you will be in the largest empty space you likely will ever be indoors. If that is not enough, the friendly people in Oberhausen have added something more: exhibits.
Nowadays, the Oberhausen Gasometer is used for temporary exhibits. The fact that it's gargantuan and dark means that things will look different than if you were to put an exhibit anywhere else. There have been many exhibits, but the current one is a particularly fitting one. In the Gasometer, an exhibit of the solar system is made. Big planets, in a big, dark void. A lot more powerful than what one would see in a small planetarium. It makes you appreciate that space is cold, empty and forbidding. What is more, they have a 30 meter scale model of the moon. That's positively huge. And, because of the elevator, you get to watch it from bottom to top.
As if this were not enough, they have also included space-themed music. Now, this might just be my imagination, but when I am in a colossal, empty, dark metal enclosure listening to the Imperial March, I kind of get the feeling that I am in the Death Star. The only thing missing is Imperial Stormtroopers or Darth Vader.
As you might gather from the description above, I was pretty stunned by the display. Especially after visiting the nearby Sea Life aquarium, which has a lot of advertisements, but was rather disappointing, this was extremely impressive. It's just one of those things that you have never seen before, and never will see anywhere else. I would consider it well worth a trip if you are nearby, although not quite enough to book a flight from the other side of the world for.
How to get there
It's in Oberhausen, near the Neue Mitte. Being a 120 meter tall metal cylinder, it is somewhat hard to miss, although the punctual Germans have put signs indicating how to walk from the bus stop (I find this extremely amusing - using a 20 cm sign to point the way to a friggin huge metal cylinder, with an enormous sign on it, that is quite nearby. Oh well, suppose one must have been there).
The Oberhausen Gasometer is a decommissioned gas holder that is preserved as an industrial monument. It is currently used as an exhibition hall. Because of its unique properties - dark, huge, and empty - it gives a special feel, and allows for exhibits that can be held pretty much nowhere else. It turns an exhibit into an experience.