City Hall, London
Charles Ajunwa writes on the many attractions around the City Hall, London, United Kingdom
Before leaving Lagos on November 3, 2012, to attend the just-concluded World Travel Market (WTM) that took place in ExCel, London, United Kingdom, I had made up my mind to visit the City Hall, which is listed among the 77 main attractions in London.
To satisfy my curiosity, on one of the event days at ExCel, I entered a train going to Canning Town from where I boarded a Jubilee Line underground train heading for London Bridge. With my map tightly clipped to my hand I listened carefully as the train operators make announcements for people to alight at their preferred destinations.
When I eventually alighted at the London Bridge Train Station, I entered one of the escalators indicating the way out. London Bridge Station was opened on December 14, 1836 South of the River Thames in Tooley Street, making it the first and oldest of the current London railway terminal.
On getting out from the train station, I made few enquiries and proceeded straight to the location of the City Hall, which is built with glasses throughout. On getting there, I was taken aback by the number of visitors that trooped out for sight-seeing at the vicinity. The visitors came from different countries around the world. Both the young and old were out in the chilling winter weather to have fun; fun that will linger on in their minds for years to come.
The City Hall, which is popularly referred to as ‘Funny Building’ by Londoners because of its oval egg-like shape, is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA), which comprises the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. The magnificent structure is located in Southwark, on the South bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge. The building said to have been designed by Norman Foster was officially opened in July 2002, two years after the Greater London Authority was created.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson
I was attracted to the City Hall simply because it houses the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who last summer hosted a successful London 2012 Olympics. He is seen as the elected voice of the capital and champions London and Londoners at home and abroad. Johnson who plays a key role in running London, sets a citywide vision of improvement, develops strategies and policies to realise the vision and provides funding and encouragement to help make it a reality. His work includes making it easier for people to move in and around the city, transforming open spaces into cleaner, calmer, greener places, tackling housing and health inequalities, giving young Londoners a better start in life, championing the city at home and abroad.
The Mayor who was re-elected on May 3, 2012, is in charge of setting the overall vision for the capital and draws up strategies and policies to deliver on the vision. And he invests in and works with many different people and organisations to improve London in line with his vision.
In order to satisfy my curiosity concerning the City Hall, I called my brother who works in the Mayor’s office to come and take me inside the magnificent building. After passing the security checks at the entrance, I went together with my brother to their restaurant located at the base of the building. After our few minutes of discussions, which centered on developments in Nigeria, I proceeded straight to the outside of the building.
Beside the City Hall, is a sunken amphi-theatre called The Scoop, which is used in the summer months for open-air performances. The Scoop and surrounding landscape were designed by Townshend Landscape Architects.
Just a few metres from the City Hall, is the current London Bridge designed by architect Lord Holford and engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson. The popular London Bridge, which attracts thousands of visitors on a daily basis was said to have been constructed by contractors John Mowlem and Co from 1967 to 1972, and opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 March 1973. It comprises three spans of pre-stressed concrete box girders, a total of 928 feet (283 m) long. The cost of £4 million as of 2012 was met entirely by the Bridge House Estates charity. Visitors also entered the tour boats, which passed through the River Thames to visit the London Bridge.
Opposite the City Hall across the River Thames is the 30 St Mary Axe known as “the Gherkin.” It’s a skyscraper in London’s financial district, completed in December 2003 and opened at the end of May 2004. With 41 floors, the tower is 180 metres (591 ft) tall, and stands on the site of the former Baltic Exchange, which was extensively damaged in 1992 by the explosion of a bomb placed by the Provisional IRA.
After the plans to build the Millennium Tower were dropped, 30 St Mary Axe was designed by Norman Foster and Arup engineers, and was erected by Skanska in 2001–2003.
The building has become an iconic symbol of London and is one of the city’s most widely recognised examples of modern architecture.
MHS Belfast Ship
Another thing of interest was the MHS Belfast ship, which anchored in front of the City Hall, with visitors trooping in and out of the war ship. HMS Belfast is a museum ship, originally a Royal Navy light cruiser, permanently moored in London on the River Thames and operated by the Imperial War Museum.
According to historians, the construction of Belfast, the first Royal Navy ship to be named after the capital city of Northern Ireland and one of ten Town-class cruisers, began in December 1936. She was launched on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 1938. Commissioned in early August 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Belfast was initially part of the British naval blockade against Germany. In November 1939 Belfast struck a German mine and spent more than two years undergoing extensive repairs. Returning to action in November 1942 with improved firepower, radar equipment and armour, Belfast was the largest and arguably most powerful cruiser in the Royal Navy at the time.
All in all, I never regretted my decision as everything turned out to be an amazing experience. Apart from the visit to the City Hall adding to my world view, I discovered that the British are master strategists in turning things around to attract visitors which directly rev up their internally generated revenue.