City Hall

Technically, City Hall is not located within a city nor does it even serve a single city. It was completed in 2002 as part of the More London development between Tower Bridge and London Bridge – which is privately owned – so it is not even owned by a city!

Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council in 1986 and presumably hoped to be rid of its troublesome leader, Ken Livingstone, forever. The Greater London Authority was created in 2000 as London’s strategic regional authority though and, consequently, Ken returned as the first Mayor of London. City Hall opened as its headquarters two years later.

The prolific architect Norman Foster designed City Hall and it was built at a cost of £65 million. It is just one building on a long list of London landmarks by Foster which also includes Canary Wharf Tube Station (1999), the Millenium Bridge (2000), HSBC’s headquarters at 8 Canada Square (2002), 30 St Mary Axe (the ‘Gherkin’ – 2004) and Wembley Stadium (2007).

Compared to County Hall, the headquarters of the old Greater London Council, City Hall is highly unorthodox. It has no external right angles and a 400m long internal walkway. The building appears small but is apparently home to 600 staff along with the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. Its interesting shape, a modified sphere, is aesthetically pleasing and practical too as it has 25% less surface area than a cube of the same volume. Other eco features include two bore holes below from which water is drawn to both cool the building and fill its toilets. Photovoltaic panels were added in 2007 to provide electricity.

The design may well be sophisticated but it does have one famous drawback. I had seen for myself that the windows are often quite dirty but I was shocked to learn that the current cost of cleaning them each year is nearly £140,000. A cherry picker was in action when I last visited but the process is by no means simple and a number of techniques are used.

City Hall may well have dirty windows but it is without doubt an iconic structure and a pleasurable space in which to work (so friends tell me anyway). It is surrounded by notable buildings and, indeed, building sites. The Shard is under construction a couple of blocks away and, at 310m when completed, will be the tallest building in London.