Venue review: The Crystal building – a look into the future
The Crystal is a new building for London, hosting events and exhibitions about the future development of cities. Part of a global network, The Crystal is the knowledge hub for planners, architects and others interested in utilising the latest technology and thinking, as cities inevitably grow. A conference and educational centre, it plans to inform and to inspire sustainable engineering.
The Upcoming were treated to a lavish but rather confusing opening show, where the whole side of the building turned into a multimedia display, drumming home the message that the future starts now. The laser display and light show was impressive, but surely it doesn’t matter how much energy you are saving if you still use plenty? However, it shows what is possible, and marks the venue as flexible for many uses.
The Crystal calls itself a landmark building, but it is unlikely to enter the general consciousness of Londoners in the same way as the Shard or the Gherkin – for one thing it is too short to be part of the skyline. It sits amidst the buzzing Docklands area, near the Dome and the giant conglomeration of Canary Wharf, and it benefits from having the cable car crossing the Thames on its doorstep, which is an outing in itself.
Davis Guggenheim, film director of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth has been brought on board to mentor ten filmmakers from around the world to make a piece about their city, illustrating that through this kind of collaboration every city can learn from others, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, and that local conditions always apply. Commissioned by Siemens and on permanent display on site, the films remind audiences of the individual impact of this kind of collective thinking.
Siemens is no longer involved in mobile phones – these days it’s all about infrastructure, networks, energy and delivering healthcare. It’s a global company that has put their money where their mouth is and invested over £30 million in this venture. It could have been anywhere globally, but London continues its winning streak in being the venue of choice.
Built to the highest standards of cutting-edge, sustainable technology, The Crystal looks to the future: an angular, glass-clad structure designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre. Mainly for conferences and professionals, exhibitions and resources will be available to anyone. Already championed by the irrepressible Boris Johnson, the hope is that The Crystal will inspire a host of businesses in a new Green Enterprise District in Newham.
There are permanent interactive exhibitions and displays which, when up and running, will give tailored results according to the visitor, so urban planners will see case details, while school parties will see something more appropriate, and presumably fun. We didn’t see that in action yet, but the working Tesla Coil is a gem, and the large display showing live results from this most sustainable building in the world that records the details of its rainwater harvesting, and has solar and wind power integrated into its construction. At the moment The Crystal is a display of facts – did you know that today over half the world’s population lives in urban areas, and that by 2030, 60% will reside in cities, and by 2050, that number will rise to 70% of the world’s population?
Acting locally, thinking globally, and sharing best practice from cities all over the world is the key. If The Crystal raises the standard so that the latest green technology and sustainable practices become the norm for city mayors and planners, then everyone benefits.
For further information about the Crystal visit here.
The Crystal opens to the public on 29th September 2012. Admission to the exhibition is free.
Watch Davis Guggenheim talk about the City Stories Film Project here: