They say diamonds are a girls best friend..but what about a Crystal Palace?
Plans to rebuild a replica of the Victorian-era Crystal Palace are now in place thanks to multimillionaire Ni Zhaoxing, chairman of property development firm ZhongRong. Ni Zhaoxing said he has visited the ruins of the old Crystal Palace at least 10 times in the past, and his vision is to recreate the Palace and restore the park to its former glory bringing it back to life for local residents and international visitors to enjoy.
It seems he is driven by passion rather than money finding the whole Crystal Palace story fascinating; being part of writing the next chapter for the Crystal Palace and providing a gift to London is clearly his intentions.
Looking Back At The History
Why was it built? According to records Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert came up with the idea of an exhibition centre to show off Britain’s industrial achievements.
The Palace was the world’s largest glass building stretching 1,851ft long, with an interior height of 128ft. The Palace used 300,000 sheets of glass in the largest size ever made (4ft 1in x 10in/1.3m x 25.3cm). Steam engines on site drove the machinery to cut the wooden glazing bars as well as the 24 miles of Mr Paxton’s patent guttering used to hold the glass in position on his simple but effective ridge and furrow roof.
The original glass Palace was built in 1851 by Joseph Paxton and was situated in Hyde Park it was built by 5,000 workers in a mere five months and was home to ‘the Great Exhibition for all Nations’; an exhibition space to show case products from around the world. The build cost £150,000 – or £13.1m in today’s money.
It was later moved to Crystal Palace in 1854. The move cost £1.3million – or a staggering £96.5million in today’s money. The new building was larger and significantly different to its predecessor. It now housed the Crystal Palace School of Art, Science and Literature, while the outdoor spaces hosted concerts, exhibits, and public entertainment.
Jumping to 1890s the Palace started to deteriorate into disrepair due to lack of popularity. In 1911 The Festival of Empire was held for the coronation of George V and Queen Mary at the Palace, but after the festival and due to huge maintenance costs bankruptcy was declared.
In 1913 The Earl of Plymouth purchased the building to save it from developers. It was later sold and during 1914 -1918 was used for naval training and was known as HMS Crystal Palace.
A board of trustees under Sir Henry Buckland in the 1920s set about restoring the building and making it profitable again.
It was sadly destroyed by a fire in 1936. The fire was so great that the flames could be seen across eight counties. 400 firemen and 89 fire engines fought the fire but were unable to save the building. The fire attracted 100,000 people to watch the blaze including Winston Churchill who said “This is the end of an age” All that remains today is the listed Italian style terraces.
Looking Forward To The Future
An estimated 500 million pounds is what will be needed to recreate a 21st century version of the glass and steel Palace that was once the largest glass building in the world. The Chinese developers are proposing to rebuild the palace on the original site in South East London.
The new building will be the same size and scale as the Victorian version, it would be approximately five football pitches long and up to six storeys high and plans include restoring and upgrading the park so it is in keeping with the palace design.
The new building will include restoring the Italian-style terraces – its staircases and balustrades currently crumbling from neglect.
The national sports and athletics centre and iconic television mast in the area will remain. The underground Thames Water reservoir adjacent to the television mast will also be protected.
It hasn’t been confirmed what the new glass building will be used for but offers the potential to accommodate many different uses suggestions such as; a hotel with conference facilities, studios, galleries, cafes and other commercial space have been mentioned.
The council will be working closely with the local community to try and gain their views on the project, all of this will happen before the planning application is submitted.
The plans are supported by the leader of Bromley council Stephen Carr and Boris Johnson the major of London the planning application will be submitted by next autumn, with construction possibly starting in the winter 2015.
"This project is a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring its spirit back to life by recreating the Crystal Palace and restoring the park to its former glory," said Ni Zhaoxing