The Óbuda Gas Works produced city gas from 1914 to 1984 in the 3rd district of Budapest, on the right bank of River Danube. When it opened, it was not just the most advanced gas producing plant in the world; it was also the most beautiful, with a group of buildings in the middle middle resembling Jabba’s Palace from the Return of the Jedi.
After decades of decay, a few years ago the owners started to renovate the 100-year-old main buildings; the fabulous industrial monuments of the gas works are saved.
Prior to the development of natural gas supplies and transmission systems, all fuel and lighting gas used in cities was manufactured from coal. Coal gas was supplied to households via a municipally owned piped distribution system. In the first half of the 20th century, the increasing gas consumption of the sprawling Hungarian capital was demanding: in its heyday, the factory produced 250 thousand cubic meters of gas per day. In the chemical conversion, other by-products were also produced, such as tar — which was stored in the towers you can see in the photos below — and its components were separated by gravity (the heavy tar was used for road construction for example).
As natural gas became more accessible and cheaper, and the electricity used in gassing coal became more expensive, the fate of the Óbuda Gas Plant was sealed: closure was inevitable. From 1984 until 2004, the area of the gas works slowly decayed. In 2006 the property was transferred to the capital, the high-value historic buildings got official protection, and plans for reconstruction, rehabilitation, and urban development were born.
I first visited in the summer of 2006 and again a few days ago (thanks to the Budapest Beyond Sightseeing group), and both times I was amazed by the view of the four towers dominating the open space. Museums and other cultural institutions are going to move into these historic buildings, preserving their cultural-industrial heritage. Film crews, event organizers are also interested in the complex. In the photos below you can compare the condition of the water tower and the three smaller tar towers, before and after their compulsory preservation.
Photos: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo