The Crystal Palace Redesign. What’s not to like?

Recently 6 shortlisted teams were announced for the Crystal Palace competition. None included landscape architects.

The Crystal Palace was originally designed by Joseph Paxton, master garden designer, for the 1851 Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park. In 1852 the Crystal Palace was relocated to Sydenham Gardens, located in a large italianate park, also designed by Paxton.

Along with reconstructing the Crystal Palace, the developer, ZhongRong Group, has plans to “fund the restoration of the wider park in line with the approved masterplan to create a modern 21st century park of national importance which reflects Paxton’s original ideas…”.

Clearly part of Paxton’s brilliance and inspiration came from his intimate understanding of landscape and the interplay between internal and external spaces. One of the competition’s aims is to capture the spirit of the original design — I can’t imagine this will be done easily without the inclusion of a world-class landscape designer.

So, why don’t landscape architects feature on the shortlist? And why aren’t they considered a critical part of the team? Interesting questions, but not easily answered. At any rate, the project will surely lose out because of this. Landscape architects have a special way of viewing the world and designing places for people. They understand how built form and landscape can work together to build engaging environments, and they have an interest in creating places of delight, wonder and beauty. What’s not to like about that?