• Bricks and Words #2: ‘Crystal Palace’

    A day later than advertised, apologies.... It is impossible to overstate the achievement represented by the conception, design and erection of Joseph Paxton’s great iron and glass building, the pop-up home of the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and the ancestor of today’s High-Tech movement.

    McKean’s exceptional narrative – mostly, and wonderfully effectively, rendered in the present tense – covers every aspect of this cutting-edge work, beginning with Paxton’s famous blotting paper sketch during a business meeting, working through his relentless rationalisation of the pre-fabricated components and ending with the astonishingly efficient construction in Hyde Park itself, where the hoardings surrounding the site become the wooden floors of the hall and a third of a million panes of glass are installed by men on trolleys. Staggeringly, the building was finished less than eight months after that sketch was first scribbled; read this fabulous book and discover how, the make your own connections to what followed it.

    'Crystal Palace' by John McKean (Phaidon Press Limited, 1994; also available compiled with other as Lost Masterpieces, 1999, from the same publisher)

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Chris Rogers writer on architecture and visual culture

Click blog images to expand; pre-Sept 2011 posts here

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