The Crystal Palace – One Million Square Feet of Glass

Because of the recent invention of the cast plate glass method in 1848, which allowed for large sheets of cheap but strong glass, it was at the time the largest amount of glass ever seen in a building and astonished visitors with its clear walls and ceilings that did not require interior lights, thus a “Crystal Palace”.  –Wikipedia

Built in 1851, the Crystal Palace basically served as a museum or exhibition hall, filled with booths, to display cool new products and other attractions. I guess today’s equivalent would be a convention center mixed with a shopping mall, sort of hybrid.

I wish more photos existed to further illustrate her glorious design and glitz, I bet the Crystal Palace was breathtaking when the sunlight hit her a certain way…

Built 161 years ago… are you kidding me?

She burned down in 1936.

When completed, The Crystal Palace provided an unrivaled space for exhibits, since it was essentially a self-supporting shell standing on slim iron columns, with no internal strutural walls whatsoever. Because it was covered almost entirely in glass, it also needed no artificial lighting during the day, thereby reducing the Exhibition’s running costs.

A painting shows off the interior

Full-size elm trees growing in the park were enclosed within the central exhibition hall near the 27-foot (8 m) tall Crystal Fountain. Sparrows became a nuisance; Queen Victoria mentioned this problem to the Duke of Wellington, who offered the famous solution, “Sparrowhawks, Ma’am”.

The view from a nearby neighborhood.

The Crystal Palace had the first major installation of public toilets, the Retiring Rooms, in which sanitary engineer George Jennings installed his “Monkey Closet” flushing lavatory (initially just for men, but later catering for women also). During the exhibition, 827,280 visitors each paid one penny to use them.

Aerial shot.

The night she burned down.

Joseph Paxton was first and foremost a gardener, and his layout of gardens, fountainsterraces and cascades left no doubt as to his ability. One thing he did have a problem with was water supply. Such was his enthusiasm that thousands of gallons of water were needed to feed the myriad fountains and cascades abounding in the Crystal Palace park: the two main jets were 250 feet (76 m) high. Water towers were duly constructed, but the weight of water in the raised tanks caused them to collapse. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was consulted and came up with plans for two mighty water towers, one at the north end of the building and one at the south. Each supported a tremendous load of water, which was gathered from three reservoirs, at either end of and in the middle of the park.

Two years later, the grand fountains and cascades were opened, again in the presence of the Queen, who got wet when a gust of wind swept mists of spray over the Royal carriage.


The London Museum