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The Building of the Great Exhibition of 1851, an Environmental Design Experiment

Schoenefeldt, Henrik (2008) The Building of the Great Exhibition of 1851, an Environmental Design Experiment. In: Kenny, Paul and Brophy, Vivienne and Lewis, Owen, eds. Proceedings of the 25th Passive and Low Energy Architecture International Conference. University College Dublin, Dublin. ISBN 781905254347. (KAR id:28432)


The building of the Great Exhibition of 1851 (1850-51) represents the earliest large scale experiment in the use of the horticultural glasshouse for exclusively human, non-horticultural purposes. It illustrates the process by which Joseph Paxton applied the environmental design methods and criteria, previously developed in the context of horticulture, to a building intended for human habitation. Paxton proposed a sophisticated environmental design strategy by which he intended to achieve optimal lighting conditions for the display of 10,000 exhibits and to maintain adequate indoor temperatures and sufficient levels of ventilation inside a building occupied by up to 90,000 visitors at any one time. In order to assess the buildings environmental performance the temperature inside the building was systematically monitored during the period of the Exhibition. This was one of the earliest post-occupancy studies ever conducted inside a building for exclusively human, non-horticultural use. The collected data was used in a final post-occupancy report published by the Commissioners of the Great Exhibition in 1852 which comprised a critical and scientific evaluation of the building's environmental performance and provided insights which informed the design of Paxton's second prototype, the Crystal Palace at Sydenham (1852-54).

Item Type: Book section
Subjects: N Visual Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Depositing User: Henrik Schoenefeldt
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2011 14:52 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:06 UTC
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