Crystal Palace as Evidence of Cultural Shift

The bed in fig.1 was displayed at the 1851 exhibition. The quantity of applied ornament and embellishment is overwhelming but is indicative of what was acceptable, even desirable by Victorian standards. As compared to the artifacts in the exhibition the Crystal Palace building has a clean sparse appearance with a minimum of ornament. With the exception of girder connection covers there are few components that could be considered ornamental.(fig. 2) The real difference lies in the method of manufacture and the value placed on the resulting product by society. Once Londoners saw the efficiency and grace of its construction the Crystal Palace became a focus of pride. The design marks a cultural shift in values from garish hand made ornament of the past to the clean, streamlined machine made products of the future. The Crystal Palace is more closely related to buildings of the next century, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 1929 Barcelona Pavilion and Phillip Johnson's 1949 Glass House, than with its monolithic, masonry contemporaries.