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City Hall is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority which comprises the Mayor of London and London Assembly. It is located in Southwark, stands on the south bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge. Designed by Norman Foster, it opened in July 2002.
The building has an unusual bulbous shape, intended to reduce its surface area and thus improve energy efficiency. It has been compared variously to Darth Vader’s helmet, a misshapen egg, a human scrotum, a woodlouse or a motorcycle helmet. Former mayor Ken Livingstone referred to it as a “glass testicle”. The new mayor, Boris Johnson, has referred to it more politely as ‘The Onion’. Its designers reportedly saw the building as a giant sphere hanging over the Thames, but opted for a more conventionally rooted building instead. It has no front or back on conventional terms but derives its shape from a modified sphere.
City Hall 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. The Scoop and surrounding landscape were designed by Townshend Landscape Architects.
A 500-metre (1,640 ft) helical walkway 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.