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Crystal Palace Plans Announced

Aerial view rendering of 180-acre Crystal Palace Park located in south London
Shanghai-based Zhong Rong International Group has announced it will complete a new master plan for the 180-acre Crystal Palace Park in south London, which will include the reconstruction of the famous Crystal Palace, which had been located at the site from 1854 to 1936. Zhong Rong International Group

Local government leaders in London have welcomed the announcement of a £500-million investment that includes rebuilding the famed Crystal Palace, in the park of the same name.

October 15, 2013—The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has welcomed this month’s announcement that the Shanghai-based real estate investment firm Zhong Rong International Group will spend £500 million (U.S.$797 million) to complete the approved master plan for the 180-acre Crystal Palace Park in south London, which calls for the re-creation of the famed Crystal Palace, originally built in 1851. The palace was originally built by Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition in the city’s Hyde Park, and then expanded and relocated to the south London site in 1854. The building was the largest glass structure in the world when it was destroyed by fire in 1936.

“Crystal Palace will be a new major cultural asset for the U.K. and a landmark for London,” said Jerome Frost, a project director and leader of the United Kingdom, Middle East, and Africa (UKMEA) consulting practice of the global engineering firm Arup, in a written response to questions posed by Civil Engineering online. Frost is the project director for Arup on the Crystal Palace project. Arup is a consultant to Zhong Rong as it works through the process of designing and shaping the form, and role, of the palace.

The former Crystal Palace was a glass and steel structure measuring approximately 500 m in length and 50 m high, the equivalent of five soccer fields in length and six stories in height, according to the developer. Its vast expanse was created so that nations could display their most innovative developments in science and engineering.

Despite the destruction of the Crystal Palace more than 70 years ago, the structure is celebrated in China as a building of great achievement, according to material distributed as part of the announcement. Zhong Rong International Group intends to rebuild the structure at its original scale, and to include within it hotel and conference space as well as areas for the kinds of exhibitions for which it was originally known. It will also redevelop the surrounding park “to its former glory,” according to the company. It hopes the ingenuity and scale of the entire project will once again be celebrated at local, national, and global levels. 

 Terrace view rendering

 The project will include the redevelopment of the Victorian elements
for which the park was initially known, including a restored Italian
terrace parallel to the palace. The new palace design will also need
to accommodate a 221.9 m tall television transmitter and an
adjacent underground water reservoir.
Zhong Rong International

Located in the London Borough of Bromley, the park is currently listed by English Heritage, the country’s heritage foundation, as a grade II* park, meaning that it is “particularly important, of more than special interest” than others, according to English heritage. The park is also home to one Grade I attraction and a number of Grade II and Grade II* listed attractions. Dinosaur sculptures that date back to the 1850s, prior to the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), have Grade I listed status and have been deemed as having “exceptional historic interest in a national and probably international context,” according to English Heritage. The park also includes the 1950s-era National Sports Centre, a Grade II* listed structure, which is an “emblem of early Brutalism and…the first multipurpose sports centre in the U.K.,” according to the organization.

The redevelopment will also include the reconstruction of certain Victorian elements for which the park was initially known: a restored Italian terrace that will run parallel to the palace, and a wide pedestrian boulevard that will bisect the park perpendicular to the palace, known as the “Paxton axis.” Additional elements will include improved pedestrian connections to the nearby Crystal Palace and Penge town centers, as well as a new cafe and dinosaur interpretation center.

The approved master plan, which was drawn up by the London Development Agency to reflect Paxton’s original design of the park, has already been granted permission, according to the developer. However, prior to last week’s announcement, funding for the project had not yet been secured.

The next steps for the project include developing the concepts and furthering the detailed design work for the new palace. To this end, the mayor has formed an advisory committee that will work closely with Zhong Rong, the Greater London Suthority, the London Borough of Bromley, and local residents.

“The project is in its early stages and the details and designs still need to be worked out,” Frost said. This includes determining the layout of the new palace and precisely what amenities it will contain, as well as how it will be designed to accommodate modern infrastructure developments, including the park’s 221.9 m tall Crystal Palace television transmitter, a bus station, and an underground Thames Water reservoir located adjacent to the transmitter, according to material provided by the developer.

“Over the next few months, we’ll be working with the local community and other stakeholders to ensure that the new palace and the restoration of the park reflect Paxton’s original aspirations and respond to the 21st-century ambitions of residents and visitors alike,” Frost said.

The design development phase is anticipated to take a year; planning applications should be submitted sometime in 2014, according to the developer. Construction is currently anticipated to begin in 2015 and be completed by 2018.



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