Crystal Palace


     During the 1800’s Great Britain’s empire stretched around the world,
and with raw materials easily available to them this way, they inevitably began
refining and manufacturing all stages of many new machines and other goods,
distributing locally and globally. However, despite being the central
‘workshop of the world,’ Britain was not producing the highest quality of
merchandise. When comparing factory-made products made in England to surrounding
countries, most notably France, those products could not compare as far as
craftsmanship and sometimes, simply innovation. It was suggested by Cole and
supported by Prince Albert that England host a sort of free-for-all
technological exposition to bring in outside crafts into the country. These
planners supported free trade, thinking that if local business was exposed to
foreign-made goods, they could incorporate those new ideas into their own goods,
increasing their worth. Though originally intending to invite only neighboring
countries to this exposition, the plan soon escalated to include the global
environment. As organization and sponsorship was planned out, the matter of
where to host such a large and ongoing event arose. Ideally, it was to take
place in London, to sort of show off the best of the country and impress
in-coming visitors. The problem was that London was already built up and filled
in, and little open space remained for the needed time period. It was decided
soon that a portion of Hyde Park would provide the needed location, so it looked
as though the problem of a site had been solved. However, there were many
opposers to the plan. In general, foreign imports coming in such great
quantities could undermine British industry. More specifically, the site itself
was questioned. Though the park offered enough space, the British were very
protective of their parks, and thought that the fair would lower property values
of the highest portion of town, as well as permanently "disfigure" the
natural area. Amongst the criticisms, the committee still had to plan a
structure to hold the event. Most ideas involved a long, one-story building made
of brick. The problem was that it looked far too solid and difficult to remove
later - not to mention that it probably could not be built in time. Further
debate and redraftings didn’t help speed the project along, either. Paxton
submitted his idea late in the game, but was almost instantly adopted. It was so
cost-effective, the fair’s planning committee had to accept his proposal. The
overall design resembled a greenhouse, as he had grown up planning gardens. This
was the first building to use glass as a primary material, and while it solved
the concern of proper lighting needed, it was a bit of surprise to most people
because it was considered unsafe. Plus, a tax had recently been placed on the
material, so the amounts needed were questionable. However, the plan was
embraced by the contractors, mostly on the merit that the sections of the
building were all pre-fabricated modules, able to be built anywhere. Then, the
portions would be shipped to the park’s site and installed to the base already
formed there. The speed of the erection amazed many people. Paxton wanted people
to even let people in free once the exposition officially opened, but these idea
was not even considered by anyone but him. He valued invention over beauty, but
tried to show that invention could even redefine aesthetics. The plan apparently
worked, and the media dubbed the building, "The Crystal Palace."