Monday 17 November 2014

Crystal Palace in Paris

The amazing Crystal Palace, star of the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and later of Crystal Palace Park in Sydenham, was destroyed by a fire in 1936. However, it lives on in a model in Paris - where it is shown still under construction. 

The Cité d'Architecture et de la Patrimoine in the Trocadéro is dedicated to exploring France's architecture. However, it recognises the importance of the Crystal Palace as a pioneering work of pre-fabrication, and has a marvellous model in 1/100 scale, made by Philippe Dubois and Michel Goudin. 

Behind the famous facade, the builders are still at work assembling and erecting the cast-iron framework. Most of the glass is yet to be put in place. The Park's elm trees, famously incorporated into the interior of the central hall, are visible here.

The depiction of wooden cranes seems anachronistic at first glance, but is correct: this extraordinary structure was built before powered cranes had been developed. 

Of course, there is much more to the Cité d'Architecture than this tribute to a British masterpiece. Perhaps the most striking exhibits are those in the cast galleries: plaster replicas of building features from all over France. 

The Crystal Palace has a natural home here, perhaps: the Palais de Chaillot was itself built  for an International Exhibition in 1937 (replacing the earlier Palais constructed for the 1878 Universal Exhibition). Its windows offer excellent views of a landmark from the 1889 Universal Exhibition, the Eiffel Tower. 


Hels said...

The French could not have found a better location. I have seen every photo and souvenir from 1851's Crystal Palace, and love it all.

But I didn't know about the Palais de Chaillot. How perfect that it was build for the International Exhibition of 1937. And how perfect that the site survived - most world fair buildings were meant to be temporary (except Melbourne, of course).

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! I did not know of its existence either. Thank you for pointing it out. Note to self: when in Paris .....

Anonymous said...

It is a marvellous museum, with architectural models in all scales.
If you go inside the reading room of the library (top floor if I remember correctly) you can get a close view of the 11th C vault frescoes (a facsimile, of course) of the abbey church of Saint Savin sur Gartempe, a World UNESCO site, which, in situ, are 18 metres from the floor.
François-Marc Chaballier

Ralph Hancock said...

It's remarkable how much more functional the 1851 structure of the Crystal Palace was than the 1937 structure of the Palais de Chaillot, which is essentially a metal copy of a traditional pitched roof with the webs of the rafters lightened by holes whose roundness is inefficient and simply intended to make them look prettier.

It reminds us that the arch at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower is also completely functionless, and was forced on Gustave Eiffel by a committee that considered his original design too stark.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...