Might London's Monumental 'Crystal Palace' Rise Again?

A Chinese developer is interested in erecting an exact replica of one of architecture's most notable lost buildings on the site where it burned to the ground in 1936.

"Ni Zhaoxing, billionaire owner of Shanghai-based real estate giant ZhongRong Holdings, has expressed his desire to create an exact replica of the 900,000 sq ft glass halls in Crystal Palace park," writes Oliver Wainwright. "The majestic structure was originally designed by Joseph Paxton and first erected in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851, assembled by 5,000 navvies at a cost of £150,000 (equivalent to £13m today). After the exhibition, it was relocated to Sydenham and redesigned in a much grander beaux arts style, complete with a barrel-vaulted roof and two new transepts – costing £1.3m (around £97m today) – before being destroyed by fire in 1936."

"An Act of Parliament in 1990 specified that any new building erected on the site must be in the spirit of Paxton's original building, a challenge attempted in vain by a 1996 plan for a 20-screen multiplex cinema on the site by Ian Ritchie architects, followed by a later iteration in a hopeless Paxton pastiche," notes Wainwright.

"Now the ZhongRong group wishes to follow the Act to the letter. The company has appointed Arup engineers to work on the project, and is in early-stage talks with the Greater London Authority and Bromley Council to develop the idea, with a view to submitting a planning application later this year."

Full Story: Raising the glass: Crystal Palace to come back from the dead


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