Chinese group plans to rebuild London's Crystal Palace

Chinese group plans to rebuild London's Crystal Palace

London (AFP) - A Chinese investment firm on Thursday announced plans to resurrect London's Crystal Palace, once the largest glass structure in the world.

The planned £500 million ($800 million, 600 million euro) re-creation by the ZhongRong Group is on the same size and scale as Joseph Paxton's original cast iron and plate glass masterpiece.

The Crystal Palace was built in central London's Hyde Park for the 1851 Great Exhibition of wonders from across the globe, but moved to a hilltop dominating south London in 1854.

The building, a marvel of the Victorian age, burnt down in 1936, although the area is still known as Crystal Palace.

The Italian-style terraces on which it stood are now empty and grassed over.

The plans involve turning the site into a major new cultural destination and restoring the surrounding 180-acre (73-hectare) public park through landscaping, planting and new facilities.

"London is renowned across the world for its history and culture and the former Crystal Palace is celebrated in China as a magnificent achievement," said ZhongRong Group chairman Ni Zhaoxing.

"This project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring its spirit back to life by recreating the Crystal Palace and restoring the park to its former glory."

The park was the original home of the English Premier League football club Crystal Palace. It hosted 21 of football's FA Cup finals and the short-lived London County Cricket Club, captained by W. G. Grace.

The current stadium, which will be retained, is a traditional home of British athletics.

The hilltop's 219-metre high television transmitter, the tallest building in suburban London, will also remain.

The new Crystal Palace would be around 50 metres high and 500 metres long, and the developers promise the creation of about 2,000 new jobs.

London Mayor Boris Johnson will chair an advisory board to steer the project forward, although work is unlikely to start before 2015.

"Paxton's stunning Crystal Palace was a beacon of innovation in the 19th century, encapsulating a spirit of invention which was to shape London and the world for generations to come," he said.

"Since the iconic building was destroyed, the conundrum of what to do with the crumbling site has not been successfully resolved.

"This is a vision that could not only see a world-class landmark building reinstated, of the quality of the original, but the restoration of the entire surrounding park, bringing jobs and growth."

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