Thursday, January 19, 2006

HOW LONDON WAS BUILT: How London Was Built - Part 2

Palaces and Bridges: London's most recent palaces were built not for royalty but for the general public. In this programme historian Adam Hart Davis takes a look at the building of Alexandra and Crystal Palaces and the Palace of Westminster and traces how architecture on a grand scale started to be used to provide buildings for the general public.

Crystal Palace was the subject of an intense competition to decide on the design for the building that would house 'The Great Exhibition' - Joseph Paxton came up with an a revolutionary way of building with prefabricated cast iron and glass sections and his design was an enormous success. It paved the way for leisure centres and theme parks, one last remnant of his design being the recently restored dinosaur park- an idea more than a hundred years ahead of its time.

The programme will also look at the original People's Palace - Alexandra - and its history of fires, historic television broadcasts and hippy happenings and at the amazing gothic edifice of Sir Charles Barry's Palace of Westminster.

Bridges have played a vital part in the creation of modern London and this programme examines these crucial crossings, from Tower Bridge to the recently completed Hungerford foot bridges.

For centuries there was only one bridge traversing the Thames - London Bridge. In the 18th century the king decided to have another built but was unwilling to spend his own cash and so decided to fund it by a lottery it became known as the 'Bridge of Fools' due to the many financial and technical problems that included parts of the foundations being swept away during construction.

Pierre Lablaye's design was eventually completed nearly twenty years after the first Royal Lottery. It confounded its critics, who said it's design was flawed, by surviving an earthquake in 1753. This programme will also look at the amazing hydraulics inside Tower Bridge and at another Lottery funded bridge beset by technical problems- the Millennium Foot Bridge, better known as the Wobbly Bridge.


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