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Dutch filling history

The first petrol pump in Holland appears in 1920 in front of hotel Pabst in Zeist.
In the beginning there is a glass bowl at the top with the brand name. Near 1930 there come small cells for the servant and, typically Dutch, a canopy against rain. At first just to protect the servants, later also for fuelling vehicles. The brand name is on the canopy. Pumps are in the beginning at the roadside, but later it becomes possible, to fill up at both sides of the pump island. Separate entrance and exits develop now, leaving the road itself free from jams. The glass vitrine on the pump island grows out to a kiosk, where you can get motor oil, and a small office. Compared to America the Dutch stations look quite sober.

hist1 Because there is an uncontrolled growth of cheap built stations, destroying the beautiful landscape, there's also expanding criticism on it. It even leads to rules, the companies make to control the visual aspects of their selling points. They dont't want to loose customers because of this. Before world war II Esso made a "Handleiding ter verbetering van aanzien en service-verleening van Standard-garages" (Manual to improve the visibility and services of Standard-garages) with detailed rules for the use of color and signalisation.

After 1935 the execution of the Motorway Plans of the government really took a start, so a lack of new service stations was created. Often the oil companies built those in the new architecture, with straight lines and light, fresh colors. Kiosks were made of glass, and often combined with extra service and greasing room

After world war II the government restarted the building of new Motorways with a petrol station every 10-20 km. The companies' task was to build many station in a short period.
Of course this led to different kinds of standardization. Quite famous architects were asked to help developping those standards. The famous Dutch architect Dudok (eg. town hall Hilversum) developped for Esso a series of growing kiosks under a standard concrete wing-shaped canopy. One of the last exemples was shipped to the Autotron car museum and restaurated. Also Shell worked on standard stations, only slightly different. Fina (called Purfina those days) came in touch with Sybold van Ravesteyn (architect of eg. the Rotterdam zoo), who designed 24 stations for the company. He opposed total standardization, cause each site offers differences. "The petrol station, and the road itself with the colored cars on it, bring new character and pureness to the landscape." The only original one left of those Van Ravesteyn stations, is the one already abandoned at Apeldoornseweg in Arnhem. Further a new lookalike in the same style, designed by my own office, replaced the one in Drachten at the Stationsweg. Rijkswaterstaat (state motorway council) made strict regulations for motorway stations. Derivate functions like greasing were forbidden.
In the architecture there was a wish to plastered white buildings with slim, slanted canopies.
There was the conclusion that adaptation to the surroundings mostly led to nothing. For the first time the petrol station was to be considered as an autonomous building archetype, with its own appearance.

For Caltex (today Texaco) architect Rondeltap introduced the canopy for the need of good working light mounting, and to support the signalization to increase the "stopping power" of the station. In the sixties the canopy became a typical expression means. Iron frame or laminated wooden girders, concrete portals, anything was possible.
The building as a white box loosed its attraction and changed to brick walls, wooden windows and roof rim. Because of loosing the garage facilities it also became smaller.


In Holland self service started in 1962, but only broke through round 1970. This concept asked for large canopies, to offer comfort to the customer. The number of pump islands increased in the same way traffic did. Preferably arranged following the toll-gate system. Easy accessible for the hurried motorist, and always a free place. There were structural growth of scale, and standardization forced by the economic situation. The petrol station finally found its uniform appearance. Pumpunits and a selling box under a large canopy with broad rim, and company signalization on it. The last aspect making the only difference.

The kiosk had started extending to a shop again, the customer had to pay here. And meanwhile his attention had to be attracted to the shown retail goods.

The last years there are less strict rules on opening hours, and the assortiment is growing rapidly. So the shops extend too. At the moment, "convenience shops" of 100 m2 and more, where you can get dairy, meals and bread, are no exception any more.

Since the introduction of stricter environment rules in Holland early ninetees, one station disappeared after another. The left selling points had to be adapted with impermeable pavements against oil spill, and vapour recovery systems against the petrol air you get in your nose while fuelling.
Beside this all station owners had to remove all oil affected soil and ground water under their properties. Of course this take a lot of money.

It will be clear, that the often very expressively designed stations from the past mostly didn't survive this environmental renovation. But Holland should have now the most environment-friendly petrol stations in the world

"Buiten bedrijf: benzinestations", issue PIE Zeist
Artikel "Gooi maar vol" Elseviers Magazine 11-9-1993

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