crystalpalace rebuild
The proposal to rebuild the Crystal Palace has already attracted some interesting and well-argued comments:

Karl Richter, local architect: Without comprehensive planning and foresight, any new building on the scale and grandeur of the Crystal Palace will at best be a white elephant and at worst destroy the social fabric of the area.Listening to Mayor Johnson and Mr Ni talking about their plans – and seeing the political, commercial and reputational machinery already in play – it is plain to see that attempting to block this momentum would be more like standing in the path of a runaway train, let alone a tank.

Local residents who do want to shape the outcome, after calculating the odds of all options on the table, will no doubt conclude that the only reasonable course of action is to engage wholeheartedly with an open mind and at the earliest possible opportunity.

Expect the local community as well as business folk and politicians to all bargain as hard as they can to get the best deal possible, both collectively and respectively – and so they should.

In the press conference,  Mayor Johnson defended Mr Ni’s proposed private investment, saying “Let’s not forget that if it wasn’t for American investors funded by a German bank there wouldn’t be an Underground”.

But the Victorians, in addition to being great industrialists, were also great philanthropists.

The Mayor and Mr Ni should remind themselves that much of what people in Britain and elsewhere now take for granted required massive philanthropy alongside enthusiastic industrialism to achieve – watch again the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics by Danny Boyle.

This concept of blending the ways of commerce and benevolence is having a resurgence – most recently under the term ‘PhilanthroCapitalism‘ – coined by two British economists in their book of the same name (coincidentally they are also two of Crystal Palace Football Club’s most ardent supporters!).

PhilanthroCapitalism is advocated by leaders such as Bill Clinton and practised by the likes of Warren Buffet because it effectively leverages both markets and civil society, integrating business and philanthropy in a way that is more effective at creating prosperity whist at the same time alleviating social distress.

Although details are scarce, the deal offered by the ZhongRong Group is certainly enticing, if not also appearing too good to be true. To show that ZhongRong is serious in its intentions, and that we in return should take them seriously,

I suggest that ZhongRong is required to pay immediately into an escrow account (held by lawyers in trust and monies released according to predetermined triggers) a sum of money that is equivalent to the estimated costs of regenerating the surrounding park lands as per the ZhongRong proposal documents.

A new Crystal Palace will need to be a People’s Palace – one that empowers the very people who on October 3rd  2013 were kept outside the tent.

A People’s Palace could also inspire people around the world to make their communities stronger and more cohesive.

Could Messrs Ni, Johnson and Cameron imagine leaving behind this sort of legacy?

Ask the right questions

There isn’t yet enough information about the ZhongRong proposal for anyone to have an informed position. Knee-jerk reactions won’t help. What we need to know in detail is the following:

  1. What will it look like?
  2. What will go in it?
  3. How will it affect the amenity of the park for existing users and local residents?
  4. What effect will it have on existing infrastructure and the local environment?
  5. Will it help create a more cohesive or more fragmented local community?
  6. How will it address the development needs of the local community? [via CP Local Facebook Group]

All opinions herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisations the writer is involved with.

Our view is that we do not want the community to tear itself apart with various factions at war.

There will have to be a compromise on all sides to reach a position that reflects the whole community with one voice, both business and social, on such an important development.

Bromley Cllr Tom Papworth, (Lib Dem Crystal Palace):

“Local residents have seen numerous proposals for Crystal Palace come and go, and too often they have felt excluded from the plans. We cannot allow these proposals to be imposed on local people.

“The Mayor of London, Bromley Council and Mr. Ni must set out a meaningful consultation process that ensures that local people are drawn into the planning phase at an early stage and that any proposals meet their needs and their concerns.

“Repeating the failed consultations of the past is simply not good enough.”

Bromley Cllr John Getgood (Lab Penge and Cator on Virtual Norwood):

Some quick, early thoughts.   Yes, we need to wait until we see full plans
but in principle this is the best chance we have to provide a park worthy
of our area and the potential for the building is (potentially) exciting.
Lots to consultation though to be worked through.

I think traffic is the most serious consideration.  I (dont) look forward
to seeing stretch limos for the 6* hotel negotiating the Triangle.  And can
we get tram link plans restored?

A large public open space yes but to do what?  Large travelling
collections and exhibitions.  Fine but locals might also appreciate a
bowling alley or a cinema.   And we need somewhere for the museum and the 360 degree viewing platform promised under the master plan.

The development needs to involve the whole community. And the financial aspects need a very thorough examination.  However good
Mr Nis intentions, we must avoid a half completed building or a park that
is not sustainable.

Personally, I dont want a pastiche.  The developers talked about the
spirit of the Crystal Palace.  But in my view, that was represented by a
cutting edge proposal for its time.   I would prefer a building that
resonated with 2018 rather than 1854.

Anyway, let the dialogue begin

Further reading:

Karl Richters full article can be found at:

Massive Chinese takeaway planned for Crystal Palace Virtual Norwood blogsite thread under News and Local issues. (See page 13 comments by JamesL in response to Cllr Getgoods full comments)

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