Crystal Palace at Sydenham

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“But perhaps the most effective and suitable employment of iron is shown in connection with glass, as has been exemplified in the temporary buildings for exhibitions, for which the Great Exhibition in London, in the year 1851, furnished the model which has so often been followed subsequently. This building was afterwards removed to Sydenham, and is now known as the Crystal Palace. In this structure the walls as well as the vaulted roof consist of glass inserted between iron girders, after the pattern of large conservatories and winter-gardens, especially of that in the Champs Élydées at Paris, which is no longer in existence. Although this building scarcely seems like an architectural construction, but appears to form a peculiar specialty, still an impression is produced, which is hitherto unparalleled by its transparent termination in all directions, and by its dimensions, which have never been before attained in enclosed spaces. The distinguishing height of the main body of the building, which is divided into several naves and galleries , and if the loftier transept, which is 174 English feet high, is too considerable to recall the conservatory, which first suggested the idea to Paxton of constructing such a building on a large scale for the Great Exhibition. The visible stability of the system of construction gives a certain feeling of security as a counterpoise to the astonishment which the enormous size creates. On the other hand it is not to be denied that artistic execution in the forms of the constructive parts is wanting, though many difficulties would perhaps have had to be overcome to attain this without the structure suffering as regards solidity. These constructive elements, moreover, are not used as leading to further æsthetic development, so that a real artistic value can only be attributed to the novel impression of the whole, which is produced by the large dimensions and transparent walls.”


A. Rosengarten, W. Collett-Sandars A Handbook of Architectural Styles (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895)


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