During the 1800’s Great Britain’s empire stretched around the world, and with raw materials easily available to them this way, they inevitably began refining and manufacturing all stages of many new machines and other goods, distributing locally and globally. However, despite being the central ‘workshop of the world,’ Britain was not producing the highest quality of merchandise. When comparing factory-made products made in England to surrounding countries, most notably France, those products could not compare as far as craftsmanship and sometimes, simply innovation.
It was suggested by Cole and supported by Prince Albert that England host a sort of free-for-all technological exposition to bring in outside crafts into the country. These planners supported free trade, thinking that if local business was exposed to foreign-made goods, they could incorporate those new ideas into their own goods, increasing their worth. Though originally intending to invite only neighboring countries to this exposition, the plan soon escalated to include the global environment.Order now
As organization and sponsorship was planned out, the matter of where to host such a large and ongoing event arose. Ideally, it was to take place in London, to sort of show off the best of the country and impress in-coming visitors. The problem was that London was already built up and filled in, and little open space remained for the needed time period.
It was decided soon that a portion of Hyde Park would provide the needed location, so it looked as though the problem of a site had been solved. However, there were many opposers to the plan.
In general, foreign imports coming in such great quantities could undermine British industry. More specifically, the site itself was questioned. Though the park offered enough space, the British were very protective of their parks, and thought that the fair would lower property values of the highest portion of town, as well as permanently “disfigure” the natural area. Amongst the criticisms, the committee still had to plan a structure to hold the event. Most ideas involved a long, one-story building made of brick.
The problem was that it looked far too solid and difficult to remove later – not to mention that it probably could not be built in time. Further debate and redraftings didn’t help speed the project along, either. Paxton submitted his idea late in the game, but was almost instantly adopted. It was so cost-effective, the fair’s planning committee had to accept his proposal.
The overall design resembled a greenhouse, as he had grown up planning gardens. This was the first building to use glass as a primary material, and while it solved the concern of proper lighting needed, it was a bit of surprise to most people because it was considered unsafe. Plus, a tax had recently been placed on the material, so the amounts needed were questionable. However, the plan was embraced by the contractors, mostly on the merit that the sections of the building were all pre-fabricated modules, able to be built anywhere. Then, the portions would be shipped to the park’s site and installed to the base already formed there. The speed of the erection amazed many people.
Paxton wanted people to even let people in free once the exposition officially opened, but these idea was not even considered by anyone but him. He valued invention over beauty, but tried to show that invention could even redefine aesthetics. The plan apparently worked, and the media dubbed the building, “The Crystal Palace.”