One of the themes my favorite steampunk artworks share with their namesake cyberpunk is that of urban decay. The novels of China Mieville in their depiction of New Crobuzon, for example, epitomize this squalor. Living next to Crystal Palace park in South London, I get to see a lot of it first hand.
Crystal Palace park is a Steampunk's dream -- the whole place is stuffed with decaying Victoriana and apart from the 1970s concrete monstrosity of the central athletics stadium, the park looks as if it hasn't been touched for over a hundred years.
|The crumbling steps in Crystal Palace Park|
The Palace was used for various purposes after being moved to Sydenham Hill, including the training of RAF servicemen for World War I, however in 1936 in burnt down and as it was uninsured there was no money to rebuild. All that remains are ruins and the tantalizing remnants of past glories.
|One of the Sphinxes that sits at the top of Crystal Palace hill|
Further down the hills even more exciting remains can be found. The Crystal Palace Dinosaur Park are a showcase of both the wonder and interest Victorians had for science and the natural world, and a reminder of how little we knew then compared to now.
|Two of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins's dinosaurs|
A handy audio guide, targeted at kids, has recently been produced at www.audiotrails.co.uk.
The twentieth century additions to the park are far less exciting -- sterile 1960s concrete and weathered plastic. The Victorian parts, while still hinting at the grandeur of the times, have fallen into disrepair that to me seems thoroughly steampunk.
The steampunk part of me wouldn't want to live anywhere else.