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The Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton (1803 – 1865), a well-known gardener who was familiar with green house design, to house the great exposition of 1851. The Crystal Palace was one of the first buildings to use the new method of producing plate glass. By combining the plate glass with a minimal frame work constructed of cast iron beams and pillars he succeed in producing one of the first modular curtain wall buildings. It would take another 50 years before architects would start to adopt Paxton’s brilliant use of plate glass. Paxton’s Crystal Palace is only possible because of the invention of a cheap way to make plate glass and the invention of a cheap way to make cast iron, both occurred in England because of the industrial revolution and the ability of English industry to invest in new ways to create materials. Without those two inventions the Crystal Palace doesn’t exist. It’s interesting that again, it was someone outside the realm of architecture that saw the possibilities of these new materials.

Design is a Performing Art
Bruce Hannah 1997© | Illustrations by Bruce Hannah