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Posts Tagged ‘Crystal Palace

“Yesterday and tomorrow cross and mix on the skyline”*…


Artist’s impression of medieval Bologna [source]

During the 12th and 13th centuries, for reasons that are still not entirely clear, an incredible number of towers [over 100] were built throughout Bologna, making for a urban skyline that almost resembles modern-day Manhattan. Today, only 22 remain…

More at: “Towers of Bologna.”

* Carl Sandburg


As we reach for the sky, we might recall that it was on this date in 1826 that 20 year old Joseph Paxton arrived to begin work as Head gardener to William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, possessor of one of England’s premier gardens on his estate, Chatsworth.

Paxton settled into his job and became the Duke’s right-hand man for projects on the estate.  Paxton noticed the need of a conservatory, so designed and built one: The Great Conservatory at Chatsworth– at the time the largest glass in England.  It was lit with twelve thousand lamps when Queen Victoria was driven through it in 1842, and she noted in her diary: “It is the most stupendous and extraordinary creation imaginable.”


So, when Prince Albert hatched plans for The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations– or the Great Exhibition, as it was more familiarly known– to be held in 1851, Paxton was recruited to design its central building: The Crystal Palace.


Paxton was knighted, and went on to cultivate the Cavendish banana, the most consumed banana in the Western world, and to serve as a Member of Parliament.




Written by LW

May 9, 2018 at 1:01 am

The Two Cultures*: technology in the service of the Arts…

Last January, The Royal Opera House and Weiden + Kennedy London co-hosted Culture Hack Day. “an event… bringing cultural organisations together with software developers and creative technologists to make interesting new things.”

And make interesting new things they did.  For instance, Roderick Hodgson @roderickhodgson made Altfilm, an elegant interactive directory of venues showing non-mainstream films.  Ben Firshman @bfirsh made BBC Haiku Player (The Guardian got similar treatment from Adam Groves). And your agoraphobic correspondent’s personal fave:  Dan Williams‘ “When Should I Visit?”– which mines Foursquare check-in data to determine “the least busy time to visit the museums, galleries and theatres of London.”

More wonderful examples of creative cross-pollination (and links to descriptions and photos of the proceedings) at Culture Hack Day.   C.P. Snow would be proud.

*The Two Cultures,” the 1959 Rede Lecture by British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow, who argued that the breakdown of communication between the “two cultures” of modern society– the sciences and the humanities– was a major hurdle to solving the world’s problems.

As we think integrative thoughts, we might recall that The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations– or the Great Exhibition, as it was more familiarly known– opened on this date in 1851 at the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park.  Conceived and organized by Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, the Exhibition was nominally a collection of technological wonders from around the globe.  But the eight miles of tables manned by 6,000 exhibitors within the Crystal Palace were largely British…  in keeping with Albert’s real intent– the mounting of an overwhelming display of Britain’s role as industrial leader of the world.  Six million people (equivalent to roughly a third of Britain’s population at the time) attended during its six-month run.

The Exhibition; architect Sir Joseph Paxton enclosed whole trees in his design. (source)

The Perils of Early Adoption…

On November 26, 1936, three weeks after television transmissions began in England, Mr G.B. Davis of Dulwich (south–east London) paid 99 pounds. 15 shillings– over half the average annual wage of the day, equivalent to almost 4,000 pounds today– for the seventh television set manufactured in the UK, a Marconi “Type 702, number 1-007.”  The receiver had a 12-inch screen contained in a walnut and mahogany case, with a mirror in the lid onto which the picture was reflected.

But poor Mr. Davis (presumably along with his fellow early enthusiasts) was able to enjoy his pioneering purchase for only a few hours: three days after he took the plunge, the nearby Crystal Palace and its transmitter burned down.  The area could not receive television pictures again until 1946.

But Mr. Davis’ loss is his grandchildren’s gain.  Bonham’s is set to auction the set later this month. There are more Stradivarius violins in existence that pre-war TVs, so the auction house expects the set to fetch much more than it’s pre-sale estimate of 5,000 pounds.

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

As we summon memories of Sid Caesar and Soupy Sales, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that the first color 3-D feature film premiered– House of Wax.  Shot with a two-camera process, and viewed through “stereo” glasses with differently tinted lens, the film grossed a then-impressive $4.3 million.  It launched its star, Vincent Price, on a career in the horror genre, and goosed the careers of his supporting players, Phyllis Kirk and Charles Buchinsky (who shortly thereafter changed his name to Charles Bronson).  House of Wax kicked off the first period of enthusiasm for 3-D films (the second, a year-long period in the 70s); we are, of course, currently in the third.


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