City Hall (London)

From Academic Kids

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City Hall at night (abnormally lit)

City Hall in London is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority, and stands on the south bank of the River Thames near to Tower Bridge. It was designed by Sir Norman Foster and opened in July 2002.

The building has an unusual bulbous shape, intended to reduce the building's surface area and thus improve energy efficiency. It has been compared variously to Darth Vader's helmet, a misshapen egg, a motorcycle helmet or a glass testicle. Its designers reportedly originally envisaged the building being a giant sphere hanging over the Thames, but opted for a more conventionally rooted building instead.

City Hall was constructed on a site formerly occupied by wharves serving the Pool of London. It forms part of a larger development, with a sunken "amphitheatre" dividing it from more conventional office buildings a short distance to the west. The building does not actually belong to the GLA but is leased under a 25-year rent.

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City Hall during the day

A 500 metre (1,640 foot) spiral walkway, reminiscent of that in New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, runs up and around the assembly chamber. At the top of the ten-storey building is an exhibition and meeting space called "London's Living Room," with an open viewing deck which is occasionally open to the public. The walkway provides extensive views of the interior of the building, and is intended to symbolise transparency; a similar device was used by Sir Norman Foster in his design for the rebuilt Reichstag in Germany.

Spiral walkway within City Hall.
Spiral walkway within City Hall.

The term City Hall in British English does not have the American meaning of a building housing the municipal authority. The equivalent British term is Town Hall. Here, City Hall is the name of the building rather than a description of its function. Ironically, City Hall is not in the City of London, whose headquarters is in the Guildhall north of the Thames. The predecessors of the Greater London Authority, namely the Greater London Council and the London County Council had their headquarters at County Hall, upstream on the South Bank. Although County Hall's old council chamber is still intact, it is unavailable for use by the GLA due to the building's conversion into, amongst other things, a luxury hotel, amusement arcade and aquarium.

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