Crystal Palace (building)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The original Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. Colored lithograph by the Dickinson brothers, 1851

The Crystal Palace ( German  crystal palace ) was an exhibition building designed by the British architect Joseph Paxton especially for the first world exhibition in London in 1851 ( Great Exhibition ) in Victorian style and built by Charles Fox . It was originally built in Hyde Park and after the end of the World's Fair it was moved to Sydenham in the London borough of Lewisham , now the Crystal Palace district , where it was reopened in an enlarged form in 1854. The name Crystal Palace was coined by the satirical magazine Punch . In 1936 the Crystal Palace was completely destroyed by fire.


Crystal Palace, London, Architect: Joseph Paxton
Queen Victoria opens the World's Fair in the Crystal Palace (1851)
The Crystal Palace of 1851 on a medal for the World Exhibition of Allen & Moore , Front
The Crystal Palace of 1851 on a medal for the World Exhibition of Allen & Moore , back

In the fall of 1849, an association of British bankers and industrialists, the Society of Arts , decided to hold a world exhibition. The British products should be shown in direct comparison with international competitors in order to clarify their level of quality. Great Britain was the largest world producer and should expand its sales markets through the world exhibition.

An international competition was announced for the exhibition building. The specifications were extraordinary: the existing trees on the property in Hyde Park were to be largely preserved. The building should be erected in a short time and it should be possible to dismantle it. The size of the exhibition parcels should be freely selectable, so an undivided space was required. The exhibition building should cover an area of ​​6.4 hectares. The budget was 100,000 pounds Sterling limited. The month-long competition resulted in 233 designs. They were all over budget and rejected. Two designs by engineers received praise (Richard and Thomas Turner from Dublin; Hector Horeau from Paris).

After the unsuccessful competition, the jury formed a building committee and presented its own design, a representative building in conventional solid construction. However, the planning did not meet the competitive conditions. The cost of materials alone, estimated at £ 120,000 to £ 150,000, would have exceeded budget, it would not have been dismantled or manufactured on time. The public rejected the draft. The building committee asked Joseph Paxton to subsequently submit a design in a new competition.

Paxton, who had experience with greenhouses as a horticultural architect, submitted a design in the style of cast iron architecture made entirely of glass and cast iron , which Charles Fox was able to erect in just 17 weeks using the modular construction method, which was revolutionary at the time , using prefabricated iron parts and glass segments. The Crystal Palace , as the greenhouse-like building was soon christened, could thus be expanded practically at will and with its dimensions of approx. 615 × 150 m covered a total area of ​​almost 93,000 m². Originally the building was planned with a flat roof. The characteristic barrel roof over the transept of the building was added later. The reason for this was some old elms that stood on the planned exhibition area and that should be spared deforestation by the raised roof and integrated into the building. The inspiration for the glass rosette, which formed the end of the barrel roof, was the structure of the extremely stable leaves of the giant Amazon water lily ( Victoria amazonica ), a tropical plant that Paxton cultivated and brought to bloom for the first time in England as a gardener in the service of William Cavendish would have. At £ 150,000, the budget was still higher than the target, but the construction company undertook to charge only £ 79,800 in the event of dismantling and withdrawal of the material.


Glass fountain inside the Crystal Palace (Photographer: Philip Henry Delamotte, 1851)

The basic unit of the palace were squares with a side length of 24 feet (approximately 7.3 m). The base area consisted of 77 × 17 such basic units. The layout of the exhibition rooms is reflected in these units. The rooms are made up of a multiple of these basic units.

Only the technical innovations of the industrial revolution and the advances in iron production made the construction of the crystal palace possible. The construction of iron girders also made it possible to completely dispense with load-bearing masonry , so that large glass windows could be used instead. The first column of the building was placed on September 26, 1850. After just four months, the area in southern Hyde Park was built over on an area of ​​560 × 137 meters; 83,600 m² of glass, 372 roof trusses, 38 km of valley profile material, 330 km of glass frames and 17,000 m³ of wood were used for this.

After the exhibition the building was dismantled, rebuilt with some changes in Sydenham in the middle of a large park and used as a museum and exhibition building. Concerts were also held there, such as the Handel Festival, which took place from 1855 under the direction of August Manns . Several life-size dinosaur sculptures, created from 1853 onwards, were set up in the park, sparking the first wave of dinosaur interest. Many sports activities developed in the park, which explains the name of the famous Crystal Palace football club . The Kristallpalast burned down completely on November 30, 1936 after an explosion. Only two towers, deformed by the fire, remained initially. They were removed during World War II because it was feared that they could serve as landmarks for enemy aircraft. The northern tower was blown up in 1941, the southern tower conventionally demolished because of its proximity to other buildings. The park still exists and has been included in the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England by the English Heritage Protection Agency .

The Crystal Palace established a type of building, see various successor buildings under the glass palace .

Photographic witnesses

Photography by Delamotte , 1854

The preserved historical calotype photos by the British photographer Philip Henry Delamotte (1820–1889) are today the basis of most descriptions of the London World's Fair of 1851 and of the no longer existing building. The Italian-born Enrico (Henry) Negretti (a pioneer of photography, optician and manufacturer of scientific equipment and facilities) was invited as the official photographer of the world exhibition with his company Negretti & Zambra , which has been based in London since 1829 , and which then also produced equipment the first stereo - daguerreotype created the building. While the daguerreotypes were all originals and thus also valuable unique items and the stereo recordings delivered impressive results, which could only be accessed with expensive special equipment, Delamotte's more modern and cheaper paper images, on the other hand, could be reproduced at will and soon reached the general public as postcards World.

Motif in painting

There was already a great need for images of the building during the world exhibition. Colored illustrations designed by artists were particularly popular. One of the most famous depictions was the interior view of the Crystal Palace by Louis Haghe , which shows the building during the opening by Queen Victoria in 1851. While the guests of honor attend the ceremony under a large canopy hanging from the ceiling, one of the large trees around which the building was built can be seen in the background. After moving to Sydenham, the Crystal Palace continued to be a popular motif among painters in the following decades. Artists such as the British William White Warren or the French Charles-François Daubigny and Jacques-Émile Blanche created pictures with the motif of the Crystal Palace. Camille Pissarro painted two works in which the building can be seen, including The Crystal Palace, London ( Art Institute of Chicago ).

Franz Xaver Winterhalter , The First of May 1851 : the Crystal Palace can be seen on the left

The Crystal Palace plays a supporting role in Franz Xaver Winterhalter's painting The First of May 1851 , in which Prince Albert looks at the completed building while his son Arthur receives a present from his godfather, Duke of Wellington , on his first birthday . At the same time Arthur gives him a bouquet of lilies of the valley on the occasion of his 82nd birthday.

In the movie

Loan from the Crystal Palace Company dated May 7, 1908

The Crystal Palace is the setting for a scene from the 1979 film The Great Train Robbery.

Other Events


Web links

Commons : Crystal Palace  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Stefano Mancuso : Plant Revolution : How Plants Invent our Future . Antje Kunstmann, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-95614-233-8 , pp. 178 ff .
  2. a b c Jane Tresidder, Stafford Cliff: Living under glass. Fascinating glass houses, kindergartens and verandas from yesterday and today. Bauverlag, Wiesbaden / Berlin 1986, ISBN 3-7625-2488-2 , p. 11.
  3. December 1st - On this day in history in 1936, the Crystal Palace burned down
  4. World War: Battle of Britain: War's worst raid
  5. ^ Progress of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, 1854 Philip Henry Delamotte (British, 1820-1889); Henry Negretti (British, born Italy, 1818–1879) The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  6. ^ Philip Delamotte photographs of the Crystal Palace, Sydenham. Photo documentation. at:
  7. ^ Negretti & Zambra, London photographic firm
  8. ^ The First of May 1851., accessed March 20, 2016 .
  9. Jakob Schmitz: Departure for shares . Verlag Wirtschaft und Finanz, Düsseldorf 1996, ISBN 3-87881-101-2 , p. 4.

Coordinates: 51 ° 30 ′ 11.8 "  N , 0 ° 10 ′ 12.3"  W.