London City Hall

London City Hall (107)

Located on the south bank of the Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, the profile of City Hall stands out as one of the most recent and modern buildings in the British capital. It is home to both the offices of the City of London and the London Assembly.

The building was inaugurated in 2002 amidst some public controversy arising from its unusual appearance. Some call it "the onion", others "the helmet", the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, going as far as to christen it the "glass testicle". 

Designed by architect Norman Foster, the building is an imposing, deformed-egg shaped, steel and glass structure that stands 45 metres tall at its highest point. In the interior a 500-metre-long spiral ramp leads onto a series of small offices and distributes visitors throughout the building's ten floors. Does it not remind you of the Guggenheim Museum in New York? If you've been there, you may have noticed they are practically identical. The offices are distributed over six floors that are oriented towards London, the interior offices being oriented towards the Assembly. The upper part houses an exhibition space as well as a meeting room known as London's Living Room that features a viewing area that is occasionally opened to the public.

This extravagant glass building is designed for the purposes of energy saving and, as such, features cutting-edge technology, such as a system for recycling the heat generated by computers, or the substitution of air conditioning by small windows located in each of the offices. In addition, for the purposes of air conditioning, groundwater is extracted from two perforated wells and later used as water for services and irrigation systems, thereby reducing consumption. It also features a series of solar panels that supply the electricity for the building.

But that's not all, its geometry and inclination are designed to minimize both solar radiation and heat loss. The scientific explanation being that having a spherical shape offers 25% less surface area than a cube of the same volume, and an inclination of thirty-one degrees south of the vertical means that each floor provides shade for the one below it. Another demonstration of the fact that this building is not only modern in its external design, but that even the smallest detail has been taken into account. 

Now stand back a little and look at the building in perspective. Does it not remind you of another unique building in another European capital? Have you got it yet? That's right; we're talking about the Reichstag, in Berlin, which also has a transparent, oval shape. And it's not surprising they look like since they are designed by the same architect, who wished for both buildings to represent political transparency. 

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