P164 - response to "Crystal Vision"; letter by Ray Sacks, Chairman, Crystal Palace Campaign ; April 2008, RIBA Journal.

Paxton Wouldn't Like it

Your correspondent (Ray Hall Letters February 2008) somehow seems to equate the "big victory" in saving St Pancras with his proposed rebuilding of the "authentic Crystal Palace." Would the rebuilding of a form of the old Crystal Palace on Crystal Palace Park really be some sort of "victory"? I do not have the ear of Joseph Paxton but I think he, being at the cutting edge of architectural design in 1851, would be shocked to see that nothing has changed if that plan goes ahead.

The proposed pastiche of the old Crystal Palace shows nothing of the flair of Paxton in his use of the largest glass sheet available at the time and the new wrought iron material in girders to span the nave of the building.  His brilliant use of modularisation and the logistics of, for example, handling the glass installation remain as an example for today's architects.

If anything, Paxton would have been delighted with Chris Wilkinson's recent "floating bubble" proposal, a truly advanced design with a purpose.

In any case, the fact is that, following probably the most extensive public consultation ever in the context of park regeneration, the park Master Plan has been described by many as "the chance in a generation" to rescue the much neglected Crystal Palace Park.  For the first time since the Sydenham Crystal Palace was built in 1854, a serious, comprehensive plan for the whole park has been developed.

This was submitted to Bromley Council (the planning authority) for formal planning approval in November last year (2007).  It included, as is required, a very extensive Environmental Impact Assessment.  The Master Plan is expected to come before the planning committee, following an extended public consultation period (due to the complexity of the submitted material) in late summer this year (2008).

The plan, at many public meetings, exhibitions and consultation seminars had a very large degree of acceptance - something like 80% overall - partly because of the quality of the scheme itself and partly because the consultation had, all along, helped inform the planners, Latz and partners.  

Areas of public controversy in the Master Plan were very limited but the central concepts of the improvements always kept the preservation of the park, its heritage and its wildlife at its heart.  Large commercial developments were avoided on account of the outspoken opposition to such as inappropriate for our Crystal Palace Park.

Ray Sacks,
Chairman Crystal Palace Campaign

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11/04/08 Last updated: 11/04/08