Krystallpalasset

Eirik Høyer Leivestad
Krystallpalasset: Historien om en beboelig metafor
[Crystal Palace: A History of an Inhabitable Metaphor]
Lord Jim Publishing, 2024
ISBN 978-82-93481-38-6

Publication date: June 1

In the cultural history of the modern era, there is hardly a building as influential as Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace from 1851. Originally erected to host the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, the Crystal Palace was from its inception considered a miracle of modern engineering and the architectural expression of the new industrial age. Much more than a physical building, the Crystal Palace was a cultural and ideological forcefield that stirred up massive debates about modernity and progress all the way from London to St. Petersburg.

An exuberant essay written for a general readership, this book explores the Crystal Palace as a metaphor for modern civilisation. Krystallpalasset draws on ideas and insights from literature, architecture, cultural studies, art theory and philosophy, weaving together an experimental and playful account of the Victorian landmark’s multiple meanings and its cultural and aesthetic echoes. The book brings together a diverse chorus of historical and contemporary voices, ranging from authors such as Charlotte Brontë, Fredrika Bremer and Fyodor Dostoyevsky via thinkers such as Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt and Pankaj Mishra to the Soviet-Russian mineralogist Vladimir Vernadsky and the American inventor R. Buckminster Fuller.

Whereas the historical building perished in a fire in 1936, Krystallpalasset shows how it can still serve as a prism to reflect our time. Revolving around London’s iconic 19th century building and its powerful symbolism, the book provides a spirited and original approach to the question of modernity and its inherent tensions, spanning such topics as globalisation and imperialism, capitalism and consumerism, ecology and climate regulation, utopias and dystopias.

Editor: Sigurd Tenningen
Design: Andreas Töpfer