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Chris Wilkinson's new arts centre lands at Crystal Palace

Chris Wilkinson has unveiled his plans for a 150m-long glass palace in the sky in south London, the first new building on the site of Joseph Paxton's visionary Crystal Palace since it burnt down in 1936.

Wilkinson was approached by the Crystal Palace Campaign committee, the organisation created in opposition to proposals for a multiplex scheme on the site. A survey distributed among 40,000 households established that residents wanted a cultural building but felt that the Grade II*-listed parkland should be retained.

The proposal is a £45 million arts venue elevated 54 metres above the park. It will be the same height as the original Crystal Palace and will occupy the space of its transept but just 10 per cent of its footprint. A moving stairway - the longest in the world - will take visitors into a 4,500m 2exhibition space for changing displays. A mezzanine level will house restaurants and bars.

Glass sculptural ribs will support a laminated glass gridshell of minimal structure, with only the decks within the enclosed space supported by steelwork. An intelligent skin of photovoltaic cells will provide solar shading and collect solar energy for power. Rainwater will be recycled and vent-like 'gills' on the underside will control natural ventilation.

Sculpture courts underneath the building will reflect the courts of Paxton's palace, with tree-planting and landscaping reinforcing its central axis through the park. The remaining original terracing and stairs will be extensively restored.

Funding for the project will be sought through fund-raising, corporate sponsorship and grants.

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