Reading recently that the Temperate
House at Kew Gardens was to close for maintenance my eyes started to glaze
over, that was, until I read that the Grade I listed building is the largest Victorian greenhouse in the world and that they were planning to dismantle the structure pane by pane at a cost of £34.3 million and that the restoration project will not be completed until May 2018.
Since opening in 1863 walking through this Victorian gem has been enjoyed by countless people over the years. The purposes of other glass projects have been more opaque.
New Crystal Palace
The pod is designed to provide a unique space for visitors to see modern sculpture whilst enjoying distant views of the city. This design by architects WilkinsonEyre at 150m long looks more like Martian invaders have arrived. The curvilinear glazed structure appears to float above the trees and is powered by photovoltaic cells illuminating the spaceship at night. Access to the interior would have been via the world’s longest travelator.
Old Crystal Palace
After the Great Exhibition of 1851, it was decided to move the Crystal Palace from Hyde Park and proposals were invited to redesign the building. By far the most imaginative idea came from the architect Charles Burton who proposed stacking the iron frame upwards to fifty storeys. This made Burton the first man ever to suggest building a skyscraper, some 30 years before the Americans claimed the accolade. The reconstructed salvage would have been placed where the Albert Memorial, opposite the Royal Albert Hall, currently sits, and was projected to be a thin obelisk 1,128ft tall wobbling up into the Victorian sky.
The 1960s was a decade of change teenagers not dressing like their parents, men with long hair, even the word teenager was relatively new. So into this brave new world stepped a group rejoicing in the name ‘The Glass Age Development Committee’.
They proposed building a bridge – The Crystal Span – it was to be 970ft long and 127ft wide. Provision for motor vehicles on its lower deck, while above were to be seven levels comprising shops, an extension to the Tate Gallery, a hotel, skating rink all topped off with a roof garden and an open air theatre; a modern vision of the medieval London Bridge. That all sounds great except for one small design fault, costing an estimated £109 million at today’s prices it was to be built of . . . err glass.
This piece of blue sky thinking was not their only brainwave. Taking their inspiration from the Crystal Palace with its glazed panels (before it burnt down) the committee had wanted to clean up the shambles that was, and still is, Soho. Thankfully this earlier proposed was also abandoned.
Mind you one of their schemes had some merit, they wanted to demolish Staines and build an entire glass city call Motopia.
Ultimate double glazing
Despite being completed in the late 1890s when the Prince of Wales literally opened this much loved homage to Victorian twee gothic it wasn’t long before proposals to improve Tower Bridge were suggested. W.F.C. Holden thought that the bridge would be greatly improved if it were encased in glass and steel. Unsurprisingly, not many people agreed.