Crystal Palace may rise from ashes... thanks to a Chinese billionaire

A billionaire Chinese developer is drawing up a radical proposal to build an exact replica of the Victorian Crystal Palace that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851.

ZhongRong Holdings owned by one of China's richest men hopes to build a copy of the 900,000 sq ft castiron and plate-glass building in London's Crystal Palace park.

The original structure, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, was built to showcase 14,000 exhibitors from around the world and demonstrate the might of the British Empire.

As the largest enclosed space on earth at the time, its 300,000 panes of glass cast light on everything from marmosets from Mozambique to mock Tunisian bazaars and stuffed elephants.

Although it was first erected in Hyde Park, it was relocated to Crystal Palace in southeast London, where it remained until 1936, when it burnt down.

Ellie Brabin, a resident whose grandfather cycled from Forest Hill to watch on the night the palace burnt down, said there was a sense of “something missing” in the area: “It has a presence like a ghost here sometimes. There is a little museum in the park which shows you what it used to be like. You can buy posters of the palace in the library and the railway station at Crystal Palace is so grand. You just get the sense this used to be a real destination.”

The Shanghai-based ZhongRong, which was set up in 1992 by Ni Zhaoxing who has an estimated $1.25 billion fortune, hopes to recreate this former glory. According to Property Week, ZhongRong is in early discussions to develop the scheme. It wants the new Crystal Palace to host exhibitions and events and aims to submit a planning application later this year.

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