The Great Exhibition was the brain child of Prince Albert, then head of the Society of Arts, who conceived of a stage that would allow Victorian Britain to flaunt its considerable wealth and industry. A committee was established in 1850, charged with overseeing the construction of a building that would be both temporary and cost effective. Many famous architects of the time applied with designs, but all were rejected for failing to meet the assigned conditions.
The committee held their hand, and some months later a landscape gardener by the name of Joseph Paxton, persuaded by a close friend and member of the committee, handed in a successful application. It was the nature of his planned palace, effectively a great greenhouse, and its potential both for fulfilling the allotted time schedule and meeting the low cost requirements that, despite his lack of formal qualifications, enamoured the committee to his vision.
Paxton's modular, hierarchical design reflected his practical brilliance as a designer and problem-solver. It incorporated many breakthroughs, offered practical advantages that no conventional building could match and, above all, embodied the spirit of British innovation and industrial might that the Great Exhibition was intended to celebrate.