City Hall
City Hall, Southwark
City Hall, London (Southwark) is located in Central London
City Hall, London (Southwark)
Location of City Hall in Central London
General information
Architectural styleNeo-futurism
Address110 The Queen's Walk
London, SE1
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°30′17.26″N 0°4′43.13″W / 51.5047944°N 0.0786472°W / 51.5047944; -0.0786472
Current tenantsNone
CompletedJuly 2002; 21 years ago (2002-07)
OwnerKuwait Investment Authority
Height45 metres (147.6 ft)[1]
Design and construction
Architect(s)Norman Foster
Architecture firmFoster and Partners
Structural engineerArup

City Hall is a building in Southwark, London, which previously served as the headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA) between July 2002 and December 2021. It is located in the London Borough of Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge. In June 2020, the GLA started a consultation on proposals to vacate City Hall and move to The Crystal, a GLA-owned property in Newham, at the end of 2021.[2] The decision was confirmed on 3 November 2020 and the GLA vacated City Hall on 2 December 2021.[3] The Southwark location is ultimately owned by the government of Kuwait.[4]


The City Hall building was designed by Norman Foster and was constructed at a cost of £43 million[5] on a site formerly occupied by wharves serving the Pool of London. It opened in July 2002, two years after the GLA was created, and was leased rather than owned by the GLA.[6] Despite its name, City Hall did not serve a city (according to UK law). It had responsibilities over Greater London, which should not be confused with the City of London, which has its headquarters at the Guildhall.[7]

In June 2011, Mayor Boris Johnson announced that for the duration of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the building would be called London House.[8]

In November 2020, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced plans to vacate City Hall at the end of 2021 and relocate to The Crystal in the Royal Victoria Docks area of East London.[9][10][2] Khan cited the high cost of rent as the reason for relocating the GLA headquarters, stating that vacating City Hall in favour of a property owned by the authority would save it £55 million over the course of five years.[11]


The interior helical staircase of City Hall

The building has an unusual, bulbous shape, purportedly intended to reduce its surface area and thus improve energy efficiency, although the excess energy consumption caused by the exclusive use of glass (in a double façade) overwhelms the benefit of shape. Despite claiming the building "demonstrates the potential for a sustainable, virtually non-polluting public building",[12] energy use measurements have shown this building to be fairly inefficient in terms of energy use (375 kWh/m2/yr), with a 2012 Display Energy Performance Certificate rating of "E".[13] It has been compared variously to a helmet (either Darth Vader's or simply a motorcyclist's), a misshapen egg, and a woodlouse. Former mayor Ken Livingstone referred to it as a "glass testicle",[14][15] while his successor, Boris Johnson, made the same comparison using a different word, "The Glass Gonad"[16] and more politely as "The Onion".[17]

A 500-metre (1,600 ft) helical walkway ascends the full ten storeys. At the top is an exhibition and meeting space with an open viewing deck that was occasionally open to the public. The ramp could not be used as intended for security reasons.[18] 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 (parliament), when Germany's capital was moved back to Berlin. In 2006 it was announced that photovoltaic cells would be fitted to the building by the London Climate Change Agency.[19]

The debating chamber was located at the bottom of the helical stairway. The seats and desks for assembly members were arranged in a circular form.[20]

In 2023, St Martins Property announced that the architectural firms of Gensler and LDA Design had completed a plan to redesign the unused structure as a mixed-use office and retail building. It was intended to replace the iconic spiral with leafy terraces[18] and replace the glazing with different materials.[21]


The building is located on The Queen's Walk, a part of the extended pedestrianised south-side embankment of the River Thames in the London Borough of Southwark. It forms part of a larger development called More London, including offices and shops. The nearest London Underground and National Rail station is London Bridge.[22]

In popular culture

In 2015, City Hall acted as location for the fictional HQ of the Joint Intelligence Service in the James Bond film Spectre. The building appeared taller, and in a different Thames-side location in the movie through the use of Computer-generated imagery.[23] In 2016 the walkways were filled with musicians during Open House London in a site-specific work by British composer Samuel Bordoli, which explored the unique acoustic of the structure.[24] In 2018, the final selection for the television show The Apprentice was filmed in City Hall.[25] It is featured in the Mario Kart games Mario Kart Tour and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as part of the London Loop racecourse.[26]


See also


  1. ^ City Hall on
  2. ^ a b "Khan proposes moving City Hall to cut costs". BBC News. 24 June 2020.
  3. ^ "City Hall to relocate from central London to the East End". BBC. 3 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Kuwait Buys London Mayor's Headquarters For $2.8bn". Gulf Business. 9 December 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  5. ^ "SPICe Briefing" Retrieved 1 March 2010
  6. ^ "Inside City Hall" Retrieved 1 March 2010 Archived 4 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Historic England. "West Wing, Guildhall (Grade II) (1476841)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  8. ^ London SE1 website team London SE1 community website. "City Hall to be renamed 'London House' during 2012 Olympics [15 April 2011]". Retrieved 15 August 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Peracha, Qasim (24 June 2020). "Sadiq Khan announces plan to leave City Hall and move to East London". getwestlondon.
  10. ^ "London's iconic City Hall set to close in a shock plan to save £11m a year". ITV News. 24 June 2020.
  11. ^ "Mayor to consult on relocating City Hall to protect services". London City Hall. 24 June 2020. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  12. ^ "Foster + Partners". Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  13. ^ Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images (2 October 2008). "Public building CO2 footprints revealed". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  14. ^ Deyan Sudjic (8 July 2001). "A thoroughly modernising mayor". The Observer. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  15. ^ "Inside London's new 'glass egg'". BBC News. 16 July 2002. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  16. ^ Stephen Robinson (28 December 2008). "Is Boris on an upward spiral at last?". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  17. ^ "The Onion". Shaftsbury. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  18. ^ a b Moore, Rowan (2 December 2023). "Testicle reprieved?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  19. ^ "Solar panels to power London's City Hall". Edie. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Is the architecture of Westminster bad for politics?". The Conversation. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  21. ^ Highfield, Anna (28 November 2023). "Gensler unveils design to remake Foster's City Hall building". Architects Journal. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  22. ^ "Nearest station to City Hall". London Town. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Spectre shoots at London City Hall". 18 April 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  24. ^ "Foster + Partners". Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  25. ^ "The Apprentice: Finale review – surely time to dismantle this panto?". The Guardian. 16 December 2018. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  26. ^ "Tour London Loop - Super Mario Wiki". Nintendo Independent Wiki Alliance. 6 December 2019. Retrieved 29 March 2023.