Harrington: And the view’s so nice…

Friday, 1st July

Tower Bridge from City Hall

The view from the now vacant City Hall

TWENTY years ago today (Friday), the City Hall building by Tower Bridge opened as the home for the London Assembly.

Hasn’t it flown by?

Not really tbh, and you can probably only name a handful of members who passed through over those two decades – usually on the way to be MPs.

Call me cynical but so many of the rest swim about in this political backwater wishing they had done the same – asking questions nobody hears and failing to make any meaningful impact on policy, largely due to the ultimate power of the mayor.

Don’t believe me, then watch a webcast every now and then – I’ll buy you a bag of bullseyes if you don’t drop off before the end.

As if to illustrate its deadening nature, the members, who we already could only half recognise, have been carted out and sent off to new premises in east London.

Do send a postcard.

It was the City Hall building itself that was always the draw. Anybody whoever got a staff job at the GLA went straight up to the balcony to get a selfie with the amazing view behind them. On those dry and predictable election nights, at least us hacks could do the same at the count.

Designed by Norman Foster, for those who like it, it’s a bit of a showstopper – and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport now seem to agree too.

Although the 20th Century Society and others have so far failed to get it protected with a listing, jungle reality show contestant Nadine Dorries has taken time out from lying over puddles for Boris Johnson to decline an attempt to secure a “certificate of immunity from listing” for the site.

That request came from the building’s owners, the St Martin’s Property Group – and conservationists believe, if it had been granted, could have paved the way for it to ultimately come down. It does after all sit on a potentially very lucrative site.

Surely buildings were meant to last longer than 20 years though, especially ones that have been created with some imagination and originality.

The 20th Century Society is right when it argues that for all its unique elements, it could still be given a new purpose.

Just don’t make it a museum to all the highlights of the London Assembly. You wouldn’t sell many tickets.

Harrington is keeping an eye out for what happens to it next.

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