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Architects urged to join Crystal Palace fray

by Jim Dunton Fri 13 December 2013, 9:00 am

Chinese developer ZhongRong Group has launched a six-week design competition to find architects for its plans to build a new Crystal Palace.

It has an exclusivity deal with Bromley Council to create a new £500 million development that is faithful to the spirit of Joseph Paxton’s original structure, which was destroyed by fire in 1936.

Now it is seeking expressions of interest from architects keen to take on the challenge, and has set a 20 January deadline for submissions ahead of an anticipated shortlist for concept designs in the spring.

ZhongRong said the selected architect was expected to be appointed in the summer, and would work closely with lead consultant Arup for the potential submission of a planning application late next year.

Group chairman Ni Zhaoxing said that the former Crystal Palace had been a symbol of innovation and inventiveness and a source of great inspiration across the world.

“We are seeking an outstanding and exciting design team to rise to the challenge of harnessing the spirit of the original and bringing it back to life in the Crystal Palace for this and future generations of local people and international visitors,” he said.

Bromley Council leader Stephen Carr - who will sit on the panel selecting the scheme architects - said people in the borough rightly wanted to see detail for the scheme, and that the appointment of architects and design teams would enable them to do so.

“Clearly the appointment will be a ZhongRong decision, but I am encouraged by the desire to recruit a team of the highest calibre on a global stage and in quite a demanding short time scale,” he said.

“The news underlines ZhongRong’s serious intentions and will ultimately bring about greater clarity which is to be welcomed.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson said creating a new Crystal Palace was “a truly unique opportunity”.

ZhongRong has previously stated that it wants the development to be a “culture-led exhibition and employment space”, and that the new Crystal Palace should update the innovative, translucent and delicate structure of the original - which was approximately 50 metres high and 500 metres long.

An Act of Parliament in 1990 specified that any new building erected on its site must be “in the spirit of Paxton’s original building“, which was originally constructed in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851, but moved to south London in 1854.

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