Week 1

This week we learned about the Great Exhibition, and what especially interested me about the Great Exhibition of 1851 was the actual structure that it was in, the Crystal Palace. Before classes started this year, me and my friends went to Kensington Palace where there was an exhibit about Queen Victoria, and that was the first time I heard about the Crystal Palace. I originally didn’t think that it was possible in that time period to make something so huge out of glass. It seems to me like it would have been very difficult  to make, even today. In fact it seems like something out of a fairytale; a huge palace made completely out of shimmering glass! That is why I was so fascinated by it, and by the fact that it was solely for the purpose of the Great Exhibition. So I decided to research the Crystal Palace. Originally there had been a contest for the design of the building that the great exhibition would be housed in, but the judges didn’t like anyone’s idea (there were over 200 submitted) and they tried to put a bunch together themselves and make one. That didn’t work out either, because the building that the judges came up with would have taken over 15 months and 15 million bricks to build. It was May and the Great Exhibition was scheduled to open on May 1 the following year, so they didn’t have enough time. So Joseph Paxton came up with a better, faster, and more innovative idea. He had been a greenhouse designer, so he proposed to make a building entirely out of glass and iron. The 300,000 glass sheets that were made for the building were the largest ever made, and they were made of plate glass, which had only just recently been invented. Everything about the Crystal Palace was cutting edge. Because of the invention of the telegraph, Paxton was able to communicate with the manufacturers in the country constantly during the construction of the Crystal Palace. The way it was built was also revolutionary, with the pieces being made to be easily assembled, and then easily taken apart again. In the end, it took only 9 months to build, and the building was over 1,800 feet long. It was tall enough to house entire trees (which it did) and big enough for the 14,000 exhibitors who displayed their objects at the Great Exhibition. It was basically a giant greenhouse with two floors and a fountain in the center which served to cool the place down a great deal. When the Great Exhibition was over, more than 6 million people had passed through the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace was then moved from Hyde Park to a different location in London where it remained until it was destroyed in 1936 by a fire.  The Crystal Palace was an amazing feat of design, architecture, and invention and would be impressive even to this day.

Photograph of the Crystal Palace after it was moved

Sources:

http://www.bl.uk/victorian-britain/articles/the-great-exhibition

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-crystal-palace/

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