(N60) 12 October 2013 - ZHONGRONG Crystal Palace - notes on the proposition

The Crystal Palace Brochure - October 2013

When trawling through the internet to find what has been published on the ZhongRong Crystal Palace proposal, it was dissapointing to find very few hard facts other than those contained in the rather sparse brochure handed out at the press briefing on the Lower Terrace of Crystal Palace Park on 3rd October 2013. The brochure entitled "The Crystal Palace" (October 2013) made no mention of the sums of money being touted about evidently £500 million total with £100million for "taking forward the masterplan". [Ed: i.e. what is left of it outside the new building]

The (main) "Image for illustrative purposes only" shows a pleasant view of restored terraces, happy people walking about and playing on the grass and the spectre of the "Sydenham Crystal Palace" miraculously restored ghost-like in the background. This view brings to mind, from a contemporary photograph, the very same spectre, seen from its other side, looming over Woodland Hill [1] and looking rather dark and menacing - the glass not quite having the same sparkle as in the rendition in the brochure.

"The Crystal Palace remains a great symbol of Victorian innovation and optimism, and has inspired successive generations for over 150 years":

- can't disagree with that, it was a seminal turning point in architecture when it was built - first in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibiiton of 1851 - then rebuilt on a larger scale on Sydenham Hill. Remnants (possibly the best!) of the original design can be seen in the Floral Hall at Covent Garden Opera House and in copies around the world. This included the Crystal Palace Station (pastiche) ticket area built in the 1980s and recently removed [4] when the building was restored.

The ZhongRong-Arup proposition is for the reconstruction of the Crystal Palace in a way that is faithful to the original building and all its ingenuity, scale and magnificence. It will be a major asset for London, adding to thw City's global offer":

It does not say that the Crystal Palace will be rebuilt as it was in 1854 when it was opened officially by Queen Victoria. The words "faithful to the original building" were tested in the High Court when the Campaign challenged London and Regional Property's assertion that their multiplex fulfilled the condition in the 1990 Act [2] namely:

Item 4 : "The principal building to be constructed in any development of the pink land consequent upon the provisions of this Act shall reflect the architectural style of the original Crystal Palace."

Details of the dismissal of the challenge can be found in item L3. Thus, if the 20-cinema multiplex with a car park on the roof for 1000 cars can meet the condition in Item 4, there is some considerable leeway for messrs. ZhongRong and Arup in their ultimate design.

Could also... this phrase is used quite a bit in the brochure as in "The proposition could also accommodate stunning exhibition spaces..." it mentions the Pompei Exhibition currently on at the Brirtish Museum - Tickets, Adult £15.

"The Palace could also be home to educational facilities..." and

"could also accomodate multiple community uses...."

Brochure analysis

There isn't much point in raking through the brochure to find out what will really turn up in the Planning Application - target submission date Autumn 2014. Especially since, for a start, it is not possible to build a structure with "a similar footprint, outline and scale to the original Palce" without, at least, demolishing the bus terminus, the televison/radio mast and the Crystal Palace Act (1990).

For now...

The times have changed from 1997, the start of the Campaign against the multiplex, when Bromley Council foisted on the unsuspecting public a fait accompli, the fully approved planning application - no consultation, no warning, do as you're told! The near riot at the Annerley Town Hall was the start of a campaign [3] which resulted in the multiplex developers withdrawing in May 2001 (seems like yesterday).

We haven't reached the "man the barricades stage" but most people on reflection remain highly cynical about the whole proposal but will listen to ZhongRong-Arup and participate in the process of consultation since we want our voices heard this time round.

The Press

Here are links to some of the published articles in the press (no special order). The full articles are not shown here since they are rather similar. Where new points of view are expressed, I've included some quotes... aso, some of the pictures are quite fun!link to press


There are many questions which need answers and a resolution before the proposition can be put into effect and a decent planning application devised. A good discussion can be found from Karl Richter (Chair of the Friends of Crystal Palace Subway group) entitled A new Crystal Palace: phoenix rising or setting sun?.


[1] From Woodland Hill looking up (eastwards) towards the Crystalk Palace - image of the High Level Station in the midground and, in the foreground, the shop marked F Lawrence
[2] Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Act 1990 - Campaign website item L2
[3] main Chair Philip Kolvin (barrister, now QC)
[4] the steel and glass construction was carefully dismantled , labelled, part-by-part, and taken to, it is reported, the East Anglian Railway Museum. Evidently (rumour has it), the parts arrived but there has been somediffciulty in precise re-assembly due to numbering problems or......


Top of page; Back to news index;

12/10/13 Last updated 13/10/13