City Hall in London is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London. It stands on the south bank of the River Thames, in the More London development by Tower Bridge. Designed by Norman Foster it 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 woodlouse or a motorcycle helmet. London Mayor Ken Livingstone referred to it as a “glass testicle”.
Its designers reportedly saw the building as a giant sphere hanging over the Thames, but opted for a more conventionally rooted building instead. The building has no front or back on conventional terms but derives its shape from a modified sphere.
City Hall was constructed on a site formerly occupied by wharves serving the Pool of London. The building does not belong to the GLA but is leased under a 25-year rent. It forms part of a larger development called More London, including offices and shops.
Next to City Hall is a sunken amphitheatre called The Scoop, which is used in the summer months for open-air performances; it is not, however, part of the GLA’s jurisdiction. A 500 metre (1,640 foot) helical walkway, reminiscent of that in New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum ascends the full height of the building. At the top of the ten-story 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 views of the interior of the building, and is intended to symbolise transparency; a similar device was used by Foster in his design for the rebuilt Reichstag in Germany.
In 2006 it was announced that Solar photovoltaic cells would be fitted to the building by the London Climate Change Agency.
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, the building is unavailable for use by the GLA due to the building’s conversion into, amongst other things, a luxury hotel, amusement arcade and aquarium.