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City Hall is home to the Mayor of London, the London Assembly and the GLA, who in July 2002 became tenants of this striking rounded glass building on the south bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge.
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 woodlouse and a motorcycle helmet. Former mayor Ken Livingstone referred to it as a “glass testicle”, while the present mayor, Boris Johnson, has referred to it as “The Glass Gonad” and 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 in 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. The Scoop and surrounding landscape were designed by Townshend Landscape Architects.