The Museum of Modern Art’s Peter Reed said that “the adaptation of industrial ruins in a contemporary park has an important precedent in Richard Haag Associates’ Gas Works Park…”, while one website suggested that “Gas Works Park is easily the strangest park in Seattle, and may rank among the strangest in the world.”
This offbeat urban recreation space has its genesis in an abandoned coal gasification plant which operated from 1906 to 1956 and was reopened as a public park in 1975.
The visionary adaptive reuse project, courtesy of designer Richard Haag, is notable for its success in capturing the public imagination and connecting Seattle residents to their city’s industrial past.
While some were opposed to the site’s preservation, considering it to be a post-industrial eyesore, others seized upon its historical relevance as the last surviving coal gasification plant in the United States.
As professor and anthropologist Kenneth Read once said: “History sits on this little wasteland, not only the parochial history of a given city, but also a fragment of the chronicle of world and culture. It is certainly as valuable a document as anything preserved in the Museum of History and Industry.”
The former gas towers are among the park’s most striking features, while the Pump House has been converted into a childrens’ play barn complete with brightly painted compressors.
Inhabitat writes that Gas Works Park “is considered revolutionary for its reclamation of polluted soils using the natural processes of bioremediation” – a waste management technique which uses organisms to neutralize pollutants in contaminated earth.