Crystal Palace & Alexandra Palace

So I thought I would start by looking at one of my previous essays as I spoke about Crystal Palace and Alexandra Palace. (THIS IS REFERENCE FROM MY ESSAY – AR506: Nineteenth Century Architecture (2012/2013) How and why did new building types emerge inNineteenth-Century Britain? 

pg 4 – In the Victorian period London was described as murky and unfit for healthy recreation and enjoyment – Henrik Schoenefeldt, In Press, P.247

pg 4 – so it was important that the building needed to be covered. Paxton’s ideology was that large quantities of light into a structure would promote good bodily health which was supported by contemporary scientific publications at the time

pg 4 – The construction started on the 1st of January 1851 and was completed twenty two weeks later. This was a very fast construction compared to pre-industrial buildings of this scale which would have taken years to build.

It was due to the standardization of glass and iron which made The Crystal Palace unique. Firstly it was cheap to build at the price of £150,000. All 3,300 iron columns and 2,224 girders were of equal length which were prefabricated and transported to site dry and could be erected quickly.[1]

Page 5

In total 900,000 square feet of glass was used in the construction of Crystal Palace.

Everything was modular with standard units based on multiples of 24. The building was 1848ft long and 408ft with the uppers tiers being 264ft and 120ft wide.[1]

page 6

Paxton tackled both problems by using his knowledge of horticultural history with hothouses at Chatsworth[1] , Paxton would use an invention of his own called the Paxton Gutter. The idea of the Paxton gutter was to have a structural beam with two notches cut out of the sides. These notches were to be gutters that would collect the condensation and carry the water along the beam and down a column to the ground.


He also proposed the building to be naturally ventilated by using only a few mechanical systems. Rows of Ventilators were installed on the upper wall of each of the three tiers and low-level ventilators were installed at ground floor. [2] He also hung moist canvas sheets to the front of the ventilators and put a damp calico roof screen to provide a cool breeze through the building.[3] This was effective to an extent however on July 7th parts of the glazing to the north and south galleries were removed to help keep the temperature uniform.[4]


What this tells us about 19th century is that Victorians had a freedom to express new architectural design without being bounded by architecture rules such as neo-classicism (even though this was still popular at the time). This was easier and more effectively used due to technological advances in materials.

The main criticisms came from Colonel Sibthorp. Having knowledge of glass houses Sibthorp knew the extreme temperatures that could arise from within compared to external temperatures, this in turn would not only be uncomfortable for the visitors inside but also would create condensation.

Page 7  –

Alexandra Palace is located on Muswell Hill north London covering seven acres. Construction began in 1868 and was completed in 1874, being rebuilt during that time because of a fire. The ‘nave’ has a span of 25 metres which has a series of lunettes forming a clearstory filled with ornamental glass[1]

It is Symmetrical in plan with the axis running through a great hall capable of seating 12,000 spectators and 1,160 performers[2]. Like Crystal Palace the main hall has a transept that runs the width of the building Flanking the great hall are open courtyards that lead to domed and glazed spaces which is likened to that of the crystal palace which house horticultural plants.[3]



[1] John Hutchinson,2012, P.9

[2] John Hutchinson,2012, P.9

[3] John Hutchinson,2012,P.8


[1] Henrik Schoenefeldt, In Press, P.270

[2] Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851, 1852, PP. 67-89

[3] Henrik Schoenefeldt, In Press, P.240

[4]Henrik Schoenefeldt, In Press, P.243

[1] George Chadwick, 1966 p.120

[1] Christopher Hobhouse,1937, p.39


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