London to Leave Foster's 'Onion'

John Hill
25. 六月 2020
London's City Hall (Photo: Garry Knight/Flickr)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that the city will move its government offices from the 18-year-old City Hall designed by Foster + Partners to The Crystal, an 8-year-old building designed by WilkinsonEyre.

Londoners have a knack for nicknaming the new buildings that dot the city's urban landscape, and Norman Foster's designs appear to inspire the most creativity. Thirty St. Mary Axe is familiarly known as the Gherkin, while the riverside City Hall is referred to as the Onion but also, less politely, the "Glass Testicle" and the "Glass Gonad." The last two came courtesy of Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, Khan's immediate mayoral predecessors.

His announcement of the move from City Hall is not due to any architectural metaphors though. It is predicated on saving £55 million over five years. Slashing the budget is important since London, like most cities during the coronavirus pandemic, is seeing its tax revenues shrinking. Per the Evening Standard, the city is facing "a post-coronavirus financial hole of up to £493m over the next two years."

Inside London's City Hall (Photo © Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA-4.0)

What makes the move opportune is the fact the Greater London Authority pays rent on City Hall but owns The Crystal, which it took over from Siemens last year. Located at the Royal Docks in Newham, a move to The Crystal is being seen as a means of aiding regeneration of the area, which lies opposite the Thames from Greenwich and the Millennium Dome, and is west of London City Airport. 

WilkinsonEyre designed The Crystal for Siemens as an exhibition center and think tank. Completed in 2012, it is now described by the mayor as "a highly sustainable building on the site of London’s most ambitious regeneration project ... a new commercial district and visitor destination with thousands of new homes and jobs."

The Crystal (Photo: Matt Buck/Flickr)

If all goes according to Khan's wishes, the GLA will break its lease at City Hall in December and move to The Crystal, renaming it City Hall. A formal decision is required by September.

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