Chinese billionaire plans to rebuild London's historic Crystal Palace

Chinese billionaire considers building a replica of building that hosted the Great Exhibition of 1851

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 12:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 3:07pm

Could Britain’s magnificent Crystal Palace rise again from the ashes?

If so, it might not evoke past glories of the British Empire as it will probably be rebuilt by the hands of a Chinese man.

Billionaire Ni Zhaoxing, owner of Shanghai-based ZhongRong real estate group, is mulling over plans to construct a replica of the immense architectural wonder that hosted the Great Exhibition of 1851 and fascinated the world in the mid 19th century, British media reported.

The company is still in early-stage talks with London authorities, but has proposed to rebuild it on top of the ruins left by a fire in 1936, The Guardian reported last week. The new building would serve as an exhibition centre according to Ni’s plans, the paper said.

Authorities also confirmed they had been approached by a “potential developer” who showed interest in redeveloping a large area of the park, Bromley Times quoted a spokesman of the Mayor of London’s office as saying.

ZhongRong Holdings Group was not available when contacted by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

Built in 1851, the Crystal Palace was a giant building made from iron and glass, 124 metres wide and 564 metres long. It was long viewed as the British Empire’s symbolic showcase of its immense industrialised power to the world.

The building was relocated to Bromley in southeast London after the exhibition ended and remained there until 1936 when it was destroyed by a fire.

Developer Ni, referred to by some as the “Chinese Buffett”, has built several large skyscrapers featuring glass curtain walls in China’s major cities, including a 220 metre-high luxury office building in Shanghai’s Central Business District.

He made it into the Forbes Chinese Billionaires List for the first time this year, ranking 76th with a fortune of US$1.25 billion (HK$9.7 billion).