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Chinese billionaire to rebuild London’s Crystal Palace

October 15, 2013 Destination Global, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Aussie billionaire and potential Senate power-broker Clive Palmer, who plans to build an almost-exact replica of the ill-fated Titanic, is not the only tycoon preparing to resurrect an icon of the past.

Chinese billionaire Ni Zhaoxing, a real estate mogul, is bankrolling a AUD 850 million project to rebuild London’s famous Crystal Palace in its original London location. The structure burned down in a blazing inferno in 1936.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, known for his distinctive hairstyle, unveiled the plans at the site on Penge Common, south-east London. The mayor can be seen announcing the project on site, along with a few glimpses of what the future might hold, in this video: 

The Crystal Palace, a huge glass structure, was home to the Great Exhibition of 1851. The new version will house Ni Zhaoxing’s priceless art collection, along with a hotel, conference centre and “other commercial space”. Interior of the original Crystal Palace

It will stand on a hilltop in Crystal Palace Park, south-east London – as did the original. There are still a few locals around who remember the original but not all locals favour the project. Some say the space should be left as a park.

If all goes to plan, building work will begin in 2015.

The original Crystal Palace, built of cast-iron and plate-glass, was erected in London’s Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the Palace’s 92,000-square-metre exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution.

Cats approved of it too. The world’s first cat show, organised by Harrison Weir, was held at The Crystal Palace in 1871.

After the exhibition, the building was rebuilt in bigger form on Penge Common next to Sydenham Hill, an affluent South London suburb full of large villas. It stood there from 1854 until an immense fire wiped it out in 1936. Some 100,000 people came to Sydenham Hill to watch the blaze, including Winston Churchill.

Crystal_Palace_fire_1936“This is the end of an age,” Churchill said, prophetically.

The original Great Exhibition building, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, was 564 metres long, with an interior height of 39 metres.

Wikipedia notes that the invention of the cast plate glass method in 1848, which ushered in the production of large sheets of cheap but strong glass, made the building possible. The Crystal Palace was, at the time, the largest amount of glass ever seen in a building, astonishing visitors with its clear walls and ceilings that did not require interior lights, thus a “Crystal Palace”.

As a footnote, Sydney once boasted a large purpose-built exhibition building, based on the Crystal Palace. Called the Garden Palace, Sydney’s version was built to house the Sydney International Exhibition (1879). It stood in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Sydney’s Garden Palace was constructed primarily of timber and glass, which brought about its complete destruction when engulfed by fire in the early morning of 22 September 1882.

Perhaps a Chinese billionaire might decide to rebuild Sydney’s Garden Palace – or Clive Palmer himself might step in to help. One thing’s certain: fire extinguishers would be a must.

Written by : Peter Needham

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