Last November I went to visit The Crystal. A fantastic and woefully under-publicised permanent exhibition in London’s Docklands, opposite the Millennium Dome.
The Crystal, part of the Sustainable Cities initiative by engineering/technology company Siemens. It is the world’s largest exhibition about the future of urban life.
In the year 1900, 14% of the world population lived in cities. Right now it is about 54%. By 2050 it is estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. The Crystal and the Sustainable cities initiative look at we can solve the problems of population growth and the migration to urban environments. How can we ensure that most of the world’s population don’t end up living somewhere a bit like the Blade Runner version of Los Angeles.
The exhibition explores how we might be able to use technology to conserve resources, protect the environment and improve the lives of city dwellers. The building is worth visit in its own right as an architectural and technological showpiece. Making use of the ideas and innovations it aims to promote in the exhibitions. It was the first building in the world to achieve both the BREEAM ‘outstanding’ and LEED ‘platinum’ standards for sustainable and environmentally efficient architecture. I was lucky enough to go on a tour of the ‘plant’ areas of the building seeing things like the heat pumps and water filtration equipment.
The exhibition is beautiful, engaging and informative, taking on a journey through the history of cities into the future. Along the way it investigates the environment, climate change, demographics, planning, technology and water and energy security.
Unfortunately one of the best bits is that you won’t meet any of the crowds you see at many other London museums and exhibitions, and you will have as much time as you want to stop and think and explore.