Architecture and failed revolutions

Taken from notes for a review

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Image: Elevation and floor plans
for Paxton’s Crystal Palace (1851)

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Douglas Murphy’s Architecture of Failure (2012)

On Paxton’s Crystal Palace (1851) and the failed revolutions of 1848:

[W]here there is self-aggrandizement, fear and doubt is never far away — the Great Exhibition being held in 1851 cannot help but bring forth images of revolutions and insurgency. The Great Exhibition was being organized and formulated in the wake of the failed European revolutions of 1848, and in the UK, the Chartists and the Anti-Corn Law movement threatened to unleash the same turmoil on British soil. In this context the Great Exhibition has been understood as a “counter-revolutionary measure,” as a symbolic plaster over open social wounds, but it was also moving in the direction of economic and political liberalization; “it offered the tantalizing prospect of implicitly supporting free trade but distracting the public from revolution.” It was a path between a volatile working class and a protectionist aristocracy. It is well documented that before the exhibition there were all kinds of worries — of assassinations, of terrorism, of petty violence, of disease, of infrastructural collapse, but it is equally well documented that the exhibition passed without any violence or even significant disruption; the hordes of anarchists failed to materialize. [Pgs. 22-23]

William Edward Kilburn, photograph of the Chartists' meeting at Kennington (1848), under five miles from Hyde Park

William Edward Kilburn, photograph of the Chartists’ meeting at Kennington (1848), under five miles from Hyde Park

Sketch of the interior of the Crystal Palace at Hyde Park (1851)

Sketch of the interior of the Crystal Palace at Hyde Park (1851)

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