Concert Platform 
Crystal Palace Park
Thicket Road 
Sydenham Hill 
London SE20 8DT

Ian Ritchie Architects 1997

The concert platform is located in the park that was laid out by Joseph Paxton in 1864 to accommodate the Crystal Palace, originally created for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The concert platform and stage are positioned within a small lake overlooking a large bowl in the landscape that is capable of holding 8000 people. Concerts take place throughout the summer and the platform has the world's first outdoor active acoustic system controlled by computer - this enables the stage acoustics to be tuned as required by the performers. The platform contains a total of 46 speakers; two columns either side of the platform contain more speakers and the amplification system.

According to the architects, 

'Our concept for the concert platform was developed from an understanding and recognition of the primary importance of the Paxton landscape. We considered that the setting was both rich and complex and that a simple structure was more appropriate, not as a contrast, but to be seen as a minimal intervention. Its simplicity belies the complex performance required of it, and also denies its appearance as a conventional building.' 

The architects identify four principles that embody the design: 

  • Natural color - the oxidization of the surface of the corten steel structure creates an organic, natural relationship to the landscape;
  • Gravitas - permanence expressed through the perceived mass of the material;
  • Levitas - as a statement of the way we can build sensitively in and with the landscape, and is expressed by a composition in equilibrium touching the ground along a fine line; and 
  • Simplicity - expressed through a single construction material.

The entire platform is constructed from corten steel which through continuous oxidization slowly changes; initially from a gray slate shiny surface to a matt brown one, sealing and preserving the material. Further natural changes occur on the surface of the material and neither the texture or the color is uniform throughout. 

The rate of permanent change depends on the weather conditions, especially wind direction, rainfall and humidity - like the park around it, the concert platform is gradually changing its appearance according to natural climatic conditions. Sunlight effects transitory change - the play of light through the trees and clouds can almost dissolve the large plates that form the structure, and direct sunlight illuminates the rich color of the self-weathering steel.

The platform is a truly contemporary, dynamic and practical structure, working with the landscape to offer a considerable acoustic and architectural experience.

The project has received an RIBA National Award, a Design Council Millennium Product Award, a Civic Trust Award, the RFAC Arts Building of the Year 1998, CCA Commendation 2000 and the 'Excellence in Design' award from the American Institute of Architects.

John Perrin 2003
Updated 2007

How to visit

The concert platform is located in the north-east corner of Crystal Palace Park, Sydenham Hill, London SE20.

The nearest rail station is Sydenham Hill.


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