Tuesday, 31 March 2009

London City Hall – Norman Foster [updated]


Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council in 1986, and with it the job and power base of the loathsome ‘Red Ken’ Livingstone -- a popular move that began the neutering of what she called later “the left-wing municipal socialists and their front organisations,” “returning their functions (which we had already limited) to councils closer to their people.”

Auckland is just about to do the reverse.

GLC-DebatingChamber When Tony Blair’s Government reconstituted the folly in 2000, the first “Mayor of Greater London” -- a position only barely accountable to the Greater London Authority -- was the newly resuscitated Red Ken Livingstone.  And his “home” was this Glass Egg, built to house the house the new Authority’s debating chamber and its ever-burgeoning number of bureaucrats, which cost Londoners the princely sum of £43,000,000.

london_cityhallAlmost his first move was upon moving into this new monument to the new bureaucracy, designed by Norman Foster, was to impose on Londoners driving in and out of central London a swinging tax to pay for the palace and the busybodies within.

Naturally, the 440 stickybeaks and paper shufflers which the building was designed to house have exploded in number since then.

And this political model of wretched profligacy is now to be replicated in Auckland.  With, undoubtedly, an architectural one to follow.

Rust never sleeps.

London’s new City Hall . . . suffers from fatal delusions of grandeur. . . It is a medium-sized office building on steroids, pumping itself up to landmark scale. Trying to look like something else. And of course it is something else, another phenomenon of our times: a camera-friendly visitor attraction.

Because this is also architecture as set design.

Very, very expensive set design.


  1. The Beehive blown sideways by the Wellington winds !

  2. Hahaha. Yes, it does rather look like that, doesn't it. :-)

  3. Actually, on reflection, it does have one thing the Beehive doesn't: which is to have the debating chamber at the heart of the building, something I was disappointed to discover wasn't the case when I first had the misfortune to visit Wellington's monument to mediocrity as a youngster.

    Mind you, most of the middle of Foster's building is then taken up with a multi-million-pound staircase, so perhaps they are on a par with each other after all.

  4. Off topic somewhat but what is a "stickybeak"? Such a great metaphor I want to get it right before I steal it...

  5. Stickybeak? It's a Kiwi-ism for a busybody.

    The origin, I guess, is someone who sticks their beak into everything.

  6. Since it was probably commissioned during Red Ken's reign, I would guess that it is meant to be a giant fake tit, in which case I think it rather clever.


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