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Wed November 25 2020

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Chinese billionaire offers to rebuild Crystal Palace

3 Oct 13 A Chinese developer has announced plans for a £500m reconstruction of Paxton’s original Crystal Palace and restoration of the surrounding park.

ZhongRong Group plans to rebuild the original Victorian building, which burned down in 1936.

It has submitted a request for an exclusivity agreement to Bromley Council as the land owner. It said that a planning application could be submitted as early as autumn 2014 ahead of work starting on site in winter 2015.

The original Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. It was the largest glass structure in the world. In 1854 it was expanded and relocated to south London.

The new building will be on the same spot as the remains of the original, complete with terracing. The intention is that it will be used for art exhibitions and cultural events.

Arup has been appointed by the ZhongRong Group to develop a concept for the new Palace and prepare the design principles that will inform the building concept in the next stage.

Over the next year, Arup will support the ZhongRong in public consultation on the plans.

ZhongRong is headed by 57-year-old billionaire Ni Zhaoxing, ranked by Forbes magazine as number 76 on its China Rich List.

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To ensure the plans fit the location and history of the site, Mayor of London Boris Johnson will chair an advisory board to work with the developer. This board comprises:

  • Stephen Carr, leader of Bromley Council
  • Hank Dittmar, special advisor to HRH the Prince of Wales
  • Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project and executive chairman of Eden Regeneration
  • Sir John Sorrell, chairman of the London Design Festival.

The plans for Crystal Palace include the full restoration of the park, based on the original Victorian design, through new landscaping, planting and a central tree-lined boulevard. Improved access, lighting and a new café, visitor centre and restored concert bowl, are also included in the proposals.

There are no plans, however, to improve the old National Sports Centre that sits within the park and is now 50 years old.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson sounded enthusiastic, saying "Today's announcement marks an exciting new chapter for Crystal Palace Park. This is a vision that could not only see a world-class landmark building reinstated, of the quality of the original, but the restoration of the entire surrounding park, bringing jobs and growth. Together with Bromley council and taking account of the views of local people and leading experts, we'll now be working closely with ZhongRong Group to progress these plans in more detail."

Arup project director Jerome Frost added: “The project we are launching today evokes the magnificence of the original building and aims to restore the Park to its former glory and role as one of London’s great landmarks. The Crystal Palace will be a major new cultural attraction, adding to London’s global offer, delivering local regeneration benefits and achieving a long term sustainable future for the Park. Arup is delighted to be supporting this exciting project and its important contribution to London’s future.”

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