I can’t remember exactly how, but two or three weeks ago I began to wonder about Crystal Palace. You hear the name quite a bit, especially in relation to Football, but I had never actually been there. I had heard it was named after a big glass building which once stood there but which was destroyed. I grew curious about it: from old photographs, the place looked magnificent – how does it look today? Are there any plans to rebuild it? Given the renovation of other parts of london, such as in Stratford or North Greenwich, could Crystal Palace be next in line for such treatment?
Curious, I set off down there this afternoon. I’d seen there was a bus there from Blackheath a couple of days ago, and, hungry for some fresh air, I headed out for some exploration.
What I found made me very curious. There is a park, crystal Palace Park, which I had a look around. Without wanting to get too poetic or pseudy, it felt like an echo: I could tell something magnificent once stood there but it was long gone. It had the aura of a place that was once thriving and vibrant, but whose mighty heyday was now a long-faded memory. The park is on the side of a hill looking south. The views are incredible – you must be able to see for miles southward. The hillside is terraced, cut into levels; on the topmost of these you can tell once stood quite a large building, but now only stone barriers and a few old, moss-covered statues remain. Between the terraces runs quite a dilapidated and potholed path, badly in need of maintenance. I spent a while exploring; I could tell what it must once have looked like, but today, bepuddled and rather cold, it felt forgotten.
From looking online I know there are plans to rebuild Crystal Palace and renovate the park, and now I’m fully behind them. By and large, South London hasn’t had quite the attention the north has: Look at, say, Stratford or the North Greenwich Peninsula, and you see sleek thriving areas full of shiny modern buildings. I couldn’t help thinking that the area I visited this afternoon had been forgotten about, but must surely be next in line for such treatment.
And how awesome would it be: a brand new Crystal Palace, fully modernised yet referencing it’s victorian predecessor. While it could be used to hold exhibitions, London already has plenty of exhibition spaces, so I would make it a performance area too. Done right, it could even rival the O2 in terms of being a cool cultural centre. There was a lot of potential there, and given that the park already has a decent railway station serving it, I can’t help wonder what the Mayor is waiting for. While some say the past should be allowed to remain in the past, in a thriving modern metropolis like London, surely the future is what matters. If Crystal Palace got the Stratford treatment, there’s no reason why south London can’t become as funky as the North.