The Crystal Palace is the promise of the new factory – unlimited.
The whole world is regrouped inside it, exposed and generating tremendous wonder amongst the crowds walking inside the seemeengly endless building. Siegfied Giedion, in Space, Time and Architectures, describes.
“ The industrial exhibition embodied a synthesis of the as yet unformulated aims of the nineteenth century. It foretold the transformation that was to be effected in man as well as in industry, in human feelings as well as in human surroundings. The exhibitions were a part of the march of industry and were bound up in its destiny:”
“It was the proclamation de la liberté du travail in 1791 that first gave every citizen the right to follow whatever trade he desired. What was more important, this proclamation, in according a new liberty to production, gave official encouragement to a progress of industry and invention from which everyone expected great things (…) Sous l’égide de la liberté, les arts utiles étaient appelés à un brillant avenir.”
Because it is made of so much glass, in a way transparent but also strongly reflective, you see yourself and the outside simultaneously.
“With the introduction of new methods of iron construction it became more and more difficult to differentiate between load and support: a new poised equilibrium of all the parts of a structure began to appear. (…) The glass walls do not strictly close up the building; they constitute only a thin transparent membrane between the interior and outer space. And it is not as a building circumscribed within definite limits that the Galerie des Machines is important. (…) The aesthetic meaning of this hall is contained in the union and interpenetration of the building and outer space, out of which there grows a completely new limitlessness and movement in keeping with the machines it contains”.
“At that moment the exhibition as a problem in building lost all its creative force. It became simply an organized show like many others, and its success or failure was a matter of no historical importance. A new theme, the needs and desires of man, is required to give a new impetus to the exhibition movement. People are no longer vitally concerned with the question “How can we produce the greatest number of objects” The great problem for us is “How can production be regulated in the interests of the consumer?”