If the concept of transforming old gas stations is stirring feelings of déjà vu, you aren’t going mad. Pop-Up City has already covered three similar stories in the last few years: one of a temporary pop up cinema in London; a gas station in Amsterdam that was redesigned as a light installation and event space and, the most recent, where a filling station in Limerick, Ireland became a geometric art installation.
Why are all the old gas stations being painted in wacky colours? No, wait. Why are there so many sad, unused gas stations in the UK anyway? Is it because we are rapidly entering a new green era where nobody needs petrol stations, everyone commutes via bicycle and fossil fuels are but a distant memory? Not quite.
As we already touched upon here, the real explanation is, perhaps surprising. Most local gas stations are actually small businesses, The Guardian aptly likens the relationship between gas stations and the oil suppliers with pubs to the breweries. However, things changed in the 1990s when supermarket giants entered the market. Naturally, they were able to offer a much more competitive price for the same product and, along with the local green grocers, the local gas station felt the pinch and, eventually closed down.
So why bother making art out of gas stations? Derelict gas stations are heavily polluted sites, rendering total redevelopment costly, complex and long. This is why we should encourage urban innovators, designers and artists alike to come up with solutions to remodel, reuse and enjoy these spaces. The empty shells of old gas stations could also be seen as a constant reminder as to why we should shop local.