Page D4.2 . 26 March 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    Foster's New City Hall


    The 130,000-square-foot (12,000-square-meter) building of 11 floors, including one below grade, accommodates an assembly chamber, gallery, public library, committee rooms, administrative offices, and restaurants. There is a visitor center and a flexible exhibition and function space at the higher levels with a public viewing gallery at the top.

    The building program called for 54 private offices with the remaining office space open in plan. But this space is flexible and can be subdivided into more or fewer private offices as required. Partitions can be solid or transparent.

    Circling to the Top

    The main feature of the interior is an 800-yard- (730-meter-) long spiral ramp/ staircase curving through all ten above-grade stories to the top of the building. This is open to the public, allowing citizens to view GLA activities. At first glance, it resembles the ramp around the Berlin Reichstag dome, also designed by Foster and Partners.

    As in the Reichstag, the top-floor gallery is a public space, primarily for viewing the city skyline. Like its German cousin, the gallery also enables visitors to look down on the heads of the politicians as they debate in the assembly room.

    Another spiral underneath the London Assembly's debating chamber sweeps down into the ground, providing space for a canteen that doubles as a public restaurant and the five committee rooms. The restaurant looks out onto a sunken space that contains a 1,000-seat outdoor theater.

    For those inside, the building feels light and open. Yet this openness is not obvious to passers-by until after dusk, when its lighting transforms the building into an aesthetic of molten gold.

    Engineering Innovations

    Resembling a full-faced bike helmet or a futuristic gladiator, the building's revolutionary appearance may be less about aesthetics and more about environmental sustainability. The architects worked in collaboration with the engineering firm Arup to produce a world-class example of energy-conscious design.

    The building has an integrated system of environmental controls to minimize energy use. It is expected to consume 75 percent less energy on mechanical systems than a typical air-conditioned office building. Besides the envelope shape, which minimizes unwanted solar heat gain, insulated panels further reduce this gain, and they reduce heat loss to half that of a typical office building.

    Each of the infill panels is unique in shape and size. They have been laser-cut with data supplied from the same computer model used to design the building, ensuring a high degree of accuracy.

    Ventilation air enters offices through grilles in the floor. When the vents in the facade are open, local cooling and heating systems are deactivated to minimize energy waste. During the winter, heat and moisture are recovered from the outgoing air, and hygroscopic thermal wheels condition incoming air.

    For cooling the building during warm weather, naturally chilled groundwater is brought up from the aquifer through holes bored through 410 feet (125 meters) of London clay. The water circulates through hollow structural members, and, without the need for mechanical chillers, the system uses far less energy than air conditioning units. After circulating, the groundwater is used to flush toilets, reducing the building's demand on the conventional city water supply.   >>>



    ArchWeek Image

    At the building's top level is a gallery for viewing London's skyline.
    Photo: Greater London Authority

    ArchWeek Image

    The GLA building's distinctive bike-helmet shape moderates the effects of solar radiation in different ways for different orientations.
    Photo: Greater London Authority

    ArchWeek Image

    London's new city hall, by Foster and Partners, shares a riverside landscape with the historic Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
    Photo: Greater London Authority

    ArchWeek Image

    London city hall cross section, looking east.
    Image: Greater London Authority

    ArchWeek Image

    The glazed north facade fronts the River Thames.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    The spiral ramp is visible through the glazing of the north facade.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    The infill panels were laser cut, guided by the design software from Bentley Systems.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    Construction of the dome included installing hollow structural members that double as radiator pipes.
    Photo: Don Barker


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