In 1997 the American landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson together with Francine Houben of Mecanoo won the competition for the Masterplan of the Westergasfabriek area in Amsterdam. The area lies between the urban Westerpark and the polder with its allotments. It is surrounded by water and rails making the site into a unity. The design accentuates the transitions to the city and to natural landscape. Two different routes will bring the visitor to various sites, landscapes and ambiences. Around the remains of the Westergasfabriek (gas plant) a new activity takes place: the business of leisure and amusement, of environment and ecology. The concept of the vast urban park is built around this activity.
A new structure respects the monumental buildings and places them into a new context. The area becomes a unity where the transition from city to nature, from politics to art, from old to new can be experienced. Two different routes, a straight axis and a 'Path of Dreams', take the visitor to various places and landscapes in the park, to the Westerpark, the flower field, the forest, the area for public events, the village, the orchard, the beach, the 'Cité des Arts', the water and wild garden and finally to the landscape outside the city.
The 'Manifestation field' forms the centre of day activities like sports and games. On the northern side the area is bordered by a veil of noise and water reviving the adjacent field by means of effects with water and wind. During performances one can lie down on the slope. The influence of the train track is diminished by water, noise and plantations. The park respects the environment. Soil is not taken away but displaced within the area creating a new relief. Solar panels are placed on the former steel frame of the gas plant. The sun replaces gas as the source of energy in this park.
The park is both a metropolitan and a neighbourhood park. It is not rigid or static. The park has international appearance and can take different shapes. Different places give room to changing atmospheres and events. The park stimulates cultural developments, but also the experience of nature. The structure of the park seems fixed but will develop throughout the future. In order to guarantee consistency, Mecanoo was appointed as the overall supervisor for the architecture ensuring that the quality and aspirations for the Westergasfabriekterrein were achieved.