Crystal Palace may rise from the ashes

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The Independent Online
The Crystal Palace - the centrepiece of the Great Exhibition of 1851 - will be rebuilt in 2000 if confidential plans submitted to the Millennium Commission are successful.

It is understood at least four of the 15 operators bidding for the contract to run the year-long Millennium Exhibition have submitted the proposal as one of their key ideas. The Millennium Commissioners are drawing up a shortlist of three, due to be announced by Friday.

The Crystal Palace was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire's head gardener at his Derbyshire home, Chatsworth, and based is on its lily house. It was the first prefabricated building.

It stood in Hyde Park during the Great Exhibition, and was rebuilt in Sydenham, south London, in 1854. There it was used as the equivalent of a Victorian Disneyworld, housing reconstructions of the wonders of the world for schoolchildren.

It burned down in 1936, and Paxton's original plans for the glass palace - drawn on linen - are said to have been destroyed after being used as bandages during the First World War.

But contemporaneous copies existed and were published in book form by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1971. These would be used to recreate an exact replica of the original.

The cost has been estimated at pounds 50m, compared with pounds 170,000 in 1851. It would house futuristic displays, thus celebrating both the old millennium and the new.

Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Heritage and the chairwoman of the Commission, will announce the winner in January, along with which one of the four shortlisted exhibition sites - Derby's Pride Park, Stratford in east London, the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and Greenwich in south-east London - has been chosen.