A Photobook Immortalizing the Subtle Beauty of On the Road Architecture

Published by Gestalten, ”It's a Gas!” explores the many surprises in service stations through a photographic series and a special preface by Jay Leno

Chevron Boat Fueling Station, Gas Station, Petrol Station, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Photo GettyImages/Joe Daniel Price, from It’s a Gas!, Copyright Gestalten 2018

German publishing house Gestalten, known for their books dealing with architecture, art, design and photography, has recently released a photobook dedicated to the subtle beauty of service stations. The book, entitled It’s a Gas! The Allure of the Gas Station, is curated by Sasha Friesike, associate professor of digital innovation at VU University Amsterdam with a passion for photographing the roadside stops. As a special addition, late night talk show and automobile enthusiast Jay Leno has written a unique preface to accompany the stunning volume.

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The 240 page book comes in at just under 40 euros and measures 21 x 26 cm, exploring an “on the road” theme united with the cultural, architectural, and design connotations these gas stations and service areas have garnered over the years.

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Photo Ralph Gräf, from It’s a Gas!, Copyright Gestalten 2018

It’s a Gas! is so much more than a simple photographic book, it’s a journey, say publishers, through “modern temples of mobility became roadside reference points for young people hungry for independence, and to everyone who strove for a sense of freedom.”

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Photo John Margolies, from It’s a Gas!, Copyright Gestalten 2018

The volume goes on to explain the history of the gas station: from when fuel was sold in pharmacies to the revolution in the 1950’s, when automobiles became more popular and cities were populated with gas stations.

Gasolin-Tankstelle / Kundenservice / Foto
Photo akg-images/Dodenhoff, from It’s a Gas!, Copyright Gestalten 2018
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Contributing to the narrative, Jay Leno comments on the big motor boom in his preface: “The gas station is a democratic space, where, like death and taxes, everybody has to go sometime; you’ll see a new Bentley in the same station as a beat-up Ford wagon, but it’s also a great place to talk to people about their cars – how do you like it? Is it a piece of junk? What gas mileage do you get?”

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Photo Ralph Gräf, from It’s a Gas!, Copyright Gestalten 2018

The book delves into refill stations all over the world, from the United States to Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Great Britain among other countries. The differences are vast and revealing, often contrasting the eccentric distributors of the US with the sober stylings of the old continent.

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Photo Tomáš Souček, from It’s a Gas!, Copyright Gestalten 2018

Among those European stations was a special piece from architect Arne Jacobsen with an elegantly refined prototype in Skovshoved. The book explores unique fill stations like this one which was meant to be unrolled throughout all of Denmark, but because the project was never completed, the one of a kind project can only be visited in Copenhagen.

Although he wasn’t the only architectural maestro to have designed a gas station. In 1969, 0ne the Modern Movement’s biggest figures, Mies van der Rohe, constructed his own unusual station in Montreal.

Within the covers of It’s a Gas! you’ll also find newer, contemporary works along with some that have been transformed into bona fide art installations or event spaces. Stunning pictures investigate locations like No. 27 Nod to Ed Ruscha by Irish artist Maser as well as The Filling Station in London by Carmody Groarke.

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Copertina di "It’s a Gas! The Allure of the gas station", edito da Gestalten
Copyright Gestalten

Flipping through the pages of It’s a Gas! there are plenty of surprises and fascinating extras. Uncover abandoned service stations, those in ghost towns, and even the very station referenced in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, which was later transferred to the big screen by J. Ford and onto Bruce Springsteen’s dedicated album The Ghost of Tom Joad.

Glimpses into the past transform these station from mere transit zones to architectural and cultural bulwarks of a traveling tradition. It’s a Gas! is the perfect book for those passionate about architecture and design, as well as travels and automobiles.

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