The Crystal Palace, a 92,000 square metre (990,000 sq ft) cast-iron and plate-glass palace constructed in London to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, is to be rebuilt by a Chinese billionaire, Shanghai Daily reports.
The Crystal Palace, the huge Victorian exhibition center, once the largest glass structure in the world, will be brought back to life with a 500 million pound (US$811 million) investment from Shanghai-based real estate firm ZhongRong Group.
Originally erected in Hyde Park, the glass structure — about the length of five soccer pitches and six stories high — was moved three years later to south London.
A fire destroyed it in 1936, leaving an overground station and south London Premier League soccer team Crystal Palace, founded at the attraction in 1905, keeping the name alive.
A replica, true to the Victorian building’s size and scale, will be built on the same site as a cultural attraction and exhibition space. Development plans also include public parks, a hotel and conference facilities.
“[The Crystal Palace] was something that stood for the very apogee of Britain’s imperial relic in the middle of 19th century,” London’s mayor Boris Johnson said at a press conference. “And I think it will be an amazing thing to rebuild it in a different way with the best possible technology as a new cultural attraction.”
The plans haven’t proved popular with everyone however, in an unintentionally hilarious and at times virulently xenophobic editorial in the Telegraph, Stephen Bayley says “A fake Crystal Palace will shame Britain”:
A nerveless replica of Paxton’s revolutionary Victorian original (which pioneered modular construction in iron and glass) is another contribution to the woeful Disneyfication of modern life, where nothing is real and everything is a pastiche or a forgery.
Why do the Chinese want to fake it? One theory is that their fetishisation of handbag brands and European architecture is a delayed reaction to drab Maoist uniformity. Belief in Louis Vuitton or in Prince Albert offers a simulacrum of the family bonds which the Cultural Revolution so effectively destroyed. Thus in Mr Ni’s native Shanghai you find spectacular examples of what US critic Bianca Bosker calls “Duplitecture”, bizarre reproductions of European buildings, even whole cities.