Andrew Hassam
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Portable iron structures and uncertain colonial spaces at the Sydenham Crystal Palace
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Iron houses were spatially ambivalent: they combined the portability of a tent with the durability of a more traditional house. The Great Exhibition of 1851 provided a focus for portable iron houses, and for portable iron structures generally. In June 1854 the Great Exhibition building opened as the Sydenham Crystal Palace on the top of Sydenham Hill, to the south-east of London. Despite its mid-Victorian intention to educate the general public, the south transept of the Sydenham Crystal Palace evokes Claudius Loudon's romantic vision, the creation in London of the authentic inhabited tropical forest. The 'penetration' and opening up of the tropical forest was one of the major projects of British imperialism, both literally, in terms of economic exploitation, and metaphorically, in terms of christianising the Dark Continent's dark inhabitants.

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Imperial cities

Landscape, display and identity


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