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Zaha, Rogers and Chippo on 'stellar' Crystal Palace shortlist


A line-up of half a dozen of the UK’s biggest hitters, including three former Stirling Prize winners, has been shortlisted in the contest to resurrect Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace

David Chipperfield, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and an intriguing collaboration between Zaha Hadid Architects and Anish Kapoor have been named in the final six, alongside Grimshaw, Marks Barfield Architects and Haworth Tompkins.

Shortlist in full:

  • David Chipperfield Architects
  • Grimshaw with FutureCity
  • Haworth Tompkins Architects
  • Marks Barfield Architects
  • Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
  • Zaha Hadid Architects with Anish Kapoor

The contest, which attracted 40 leading practices from around the globe, is backed by the Chinese ZhongRong Group (ZRG), which plans to spend £500 million on Crystal Palace Park, creating a cultural destination reflecting the original ‘spirit, scale and magnificence’ of the south London landmark.

Paxton’s original structure was destroyed by fire in 1936.

It is understood ‘up to three’ of the shortlisted teams will be asked to draw up concept designs, with a winner appointed later in the summer.

The victorious practice will be expected to work closely with lead consultant Arup.

Billed as a new ‘culture-led exhibition and employment space’, the scheme is set to create up to 2,000 jobs and will incorporate the listed Italianate terraces. The scheme will sit within Latz + Partners’ existing masterplan for the wider revamp of the surrounding 80ha park.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who is chairing the jury panel, said: ‘This is a stellar line-up of talent demonstrating the worldwide interest in this unique and challenging project.

‘The rebuild of The Crystal Palace is set to produce an extraordinary new landmark for the capital, which will support the rebirth of this historic park and catalyse jobs and growth in the local area.’

The other judges are RIBA president Stephen Hodder, Peter Murray, the chair of New London Architecture, former CABE chairman John Sorrell, leader of Bromley Council Stephen Carr, Hank Dittmar from the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, and Eden Project co-founder Tim Smit.

The panel includes representatives from ZRG, which has an exclusivity agreement to develop the site with landowner Bromley Council.

The company’s chairman, Ni Zhaoxing, said: ‘The expressions of interest and outstanding shortlist demonstrate the wealth and diversity of design talent inspired by the challenge of rebuilding the Crystal Palace in the spirit of the magnificent original.’

The competition was first mooted last October and officially launched in December. A planning application could be submitted as early as this winter, with construction expected to start in winter 2015.  

A spokesperson for the Friends of Crystal Palace Subway said: ‘This is a very exciting list of names.

‘[However] we are looking forward to more information on not just the design, but scale and function of any proposed building and how the architects intend to incorporate our beloved subway into any design and make it available for community, arts and heritage uses.’


• Originally erected for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, Joseph Paxton’s extended and relocated Crystal Palace was the largest glass structure in the world before being destroyed by a fire in 1936. Most of the original building’s footprint at Sydenham Hill is now unused by the public.

• An Act of Parliament in 1990 specified that any new building on the plot must be ‘in the spirit of Paxton’s original building’.

• The new building will be about 50m high and 500m long – six storeys tall and the length of five football pitches.

Previous story (AJ 03.10.13)

Big name architect sought for new £500m Crystal Palace plans

The team behind plans to resurrect south London’s famous Crystal Palace has revealed that it is seeking a ‘big UK architect’ to lead the design

The £500million development, which was officially unveiled today (3 October) by London Mayor Boris Johnson, will be funded by the Chinese Zhang Rong Group (ZRG) and is being billed as a ‘culture-led exhibition and employment space’ that will become a ‘major new cultural destination for the capital.’

Arup is advising ZRG on the initial concept and design principals as well as leading the stakeholder consultation. An advisory board including Eden Project co-founder Tim Smit, London Design Festival chair John Sorrell and the Prince of Wales’ special advisor Hank Dittmar will work alongside group chair Boris.

Arup director Jerome Frost, who was in charge of design and regeneration at the 21012 Olympic Games, said no architect had been appointed to the scheme but he added that the historic importance and sensitivity of the scheme would favour a ‘big UK architect’.

Newly released images of the scheme pay clear homage to Joseph Paxton’s original iconic glass building which burnt down in 1936. Initial concepts show a modern glass palace replica sitting on the same footprint as the original, along a 500m length of terracing in the heart of the park.

Plans include a modern glass replica of Paxton’s iconic palace

To head off inevitable concerns about how the development will affect the much-loved park, Frost committed to restoring the 180-acre space to its former Victorian glory. He also confirmed that provision for housing made in an earlier masterplan by German firm Latz & Partners’ had been ditched.

Cars may also be banned from the site and Frost said the existing sports facilities, including an Olympic-size swimming pool, diving and athletics facilities would remain.

An enthusiastic Johnson gave unequivocal backing to the scheme: ‘We will be giving Bromley Council our whole-hearted support for a plan by which South London will acquire a world-class cultural attraction and by which the park will be re borne and the palace will rise again.

‘It is a brilliant, original and simple vision to recreate Crystal Palace in a 21 century version,’ added Johnson.  

A planning application is expected to be submitted within a year with work expected to start on site in the winter of 2015.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Another competition with a long 'short-list' of architects spending vast amounts of money in the hope of winning a high-profile job.

    40 practices submitted detailed designs with beautifully rendered CGIs; 6 practices have been short-listed and are getting some publicity; 3 will develop their designs; one will 'win'. But will the project even be built? This site has a history of public and local authority opposition to development if I remember rightly.

    There is so much waste in the competition system and the high stakes make it impossible for small practices with modest incomes to compete. So the result is a list of AJ100 practices, again.

    Clients and commissioning authorities are taking advantage of architects. I believe the RIBA has instigated a review of the competition process. I hope that the RIBA will recommend restricting the amount of work done by architects and limit the number of practices on the short-list to 3. The time frame also needs to be reduced - this process takes too long and creates too much uncertainty. Clients should be encouraged to make decisions and appoint their architects properly. We all know that the best projects are the result of a collaboration with client and designer which does not come from a competition scheme.

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  • Lucy's comments are so sensible but architects just can't resist the thrill of the chase. Also surprising to see who is on the panel of judges. How will their deliberations be recorded in the interests of transparency and openness?
    At least there are a couple of 'relatively' small practices involved and so - good luck Marks Barfield.

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  • It is such a pity that Lucy doesn't have her facts right, especially since the sentiments behind her arguments are well founded. However, in this particular competition, nobody has done "detailed designs with beautifully rendered CGI's". In fact, as the organisers of this competition we have been scrupulous in not asking practices to undertake design work for free. That would not be fair or ethical - in our view. The 40 practices that decided to respond to the request for information simply provided information as to why they should be considered for the project. Nothing more, nothing less. The six shortlisted practices will be asked to prepare for and attend an interview; after the interviews, no more than three practices will finally be asked to undertake design work - and they will be paid to do this work. For those of you who might be interested to see how this competition is actually being organised, I suggest a quick visit to our site: http://www.colander.co.uk/architectural_competitions/crystalpalace.html

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  • Thanks for the clarification about the competition - I am glad to hear that the competition organisers did not ask for significant design work to be done up front for free; good that the selected architects will be paid for their input. I was basing my comments on the information concerning numbers of entries in the article above and the illustrations in the AJ digital edition which are exquisite and look like CGIs of a design scheme produced by architects. The images are not credited - so sorry if I jumped to the wrong conclusion. This does not change my mind about competitions which I believe are a waste of resources and an inefficient way for clients to select architects and for buildings to be procured.

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  • What is the brief? What is the vision for this building? What does 'in the spirit of the Crystal Palace' really mean (many local residents think it's going to be an exact replica or a bad replica). What is the buildings purpose?

    There are so many questions that really should be answered before anything is designed.

    I fear what will come out of this will be a miss mash as there doesn't appear to be any clear direction. The original palace had purpose and direction. Why doesn't the new one?

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