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Khan plans to move GLA from Foster’s City Hall to WilkinsonEyre’s Crystal

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Sadiq Khan has set out cost-cutting plans to move the Greater London Authority from Foster + Partners’ Thames-side City Hall to WilkinsonEyre’s The Crystal in the Royal Docks

The mayor will consult with staff, assembly members and unions for six weeks over his proposal to take advantage of a break clause in the existing lease and a potential relocation from the London Bridge landmark at the end of next year.

London’s first mayor, Ken Livingstone, moved into City Hall in 2002, after it was opened by the Queen. But the building currently costs the authority more than £11 million a year in rates, charges, and rent to Kuwaiti landlords St Martin’s.

This figure is due to increase from the start of 2022 and – with the authority facing a £500 million funding black hole due to coronavirus-related drops in business rates and council tax income – Khan is looking to make cutbacks.

The authority already owns The Crystal, which was completed in 2012 but has been largely empty since technology giant Siemens moved out last year.

Khan said: ‘My first priority will always be to protect funding for front-line services, including public transport, the Met Police and the London Fire Brigade. That’s why I’m consulting on plans for the Greater London Authority to leave the current City Hall building next year and relocate to The Crystal.

‘In normal times, it would be standard practice for any mayor to consider utilising the lease break clause on the City Hall building that becomes possible this year, and to view it as an opportunity to ensure Londoners were getting the best value for money. In the current financial context, and with the looming black hole in London’s public finances, it would be negligent not to do so.

‘Leaving our current home would save £55 million over five years, which would help us protect and invest in the things that matter most to Londoners, as well as supporting the regeneration of the Royal Docks.’

Shutterstock foster city hall

City Hall - interior

City Hall - interior

Sebastien Ricard, the WilkinsonEyre director who led the build of the Crystal to to completion in 2012, said Khan’s plan ’could definitely be a good move.’ 

‘The building was designed with flexibility in mind as part of the overall sustainability strategy and  the GLA is in a great position to push the agenda much further in the way the building is retrofitted, to push the environmental performance still further.

He added: ‘The location has also matured a great deal with the general intensification of development to the east.  It’s not a traditional location for a government building but one perhaps more representative of the city that the GLA now represents’

AJ sustainability editor Hattie Hartman wrote when £30 millon Crystal was completed by WilkinsonEyre that it was ‘a highly performative building with an ambitious change-making agenda’. WilkinsonEyre worked with Pringle Brandon on the low-carbon scheme. 

In June 2019, the Greater London Authority accepted an early surrender of Siemens’ lease on the building on the proviso that a new use would make ‘better use of the building for the local community’.

The 6,300m² pavilion building is currently housing the Royal Docks Delivery team and continues to host a New London Architecture (NLA) programme and exhibition showcasing the Royal Docks and wider East London development.

Meanwhile Foster + Partners says on its website that City Hall is ‘one of the capital’s most symbolically important projects’. It adds that the building ‘expresses the transparency of the democratic process and demonstrates the potential for a wholly sustainable, virtually non-polluting public building’.

A decision on whether to move is expected by September.

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • The Crystal is a good building but it is in a ridiculous location given the desirability of City Hall being reasonably accessible to as many Londoners as possible, using public transport. It is a pity that the GLA did not move into the Will Alsop-converted Victoria House in Bloomsbury, but no doubt there will be plenty of cheap office space in central locations in the near future. Shame on Mrs Thatcher for selling off County Hall.

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  • Is this yet another supposedly 5 star 'green' building with zero reuse of reclaimed building materials? Architects declare that the circular economy must be ignored? Architects declare they cannot be bothered to make a small effort to reuse even the national average? Architects declare they can only specify fabulously energy-intensive new materials in prestige snub to ordinary people? And the GLA bought it?

    How does Wilkinson Eyre measure sustainability, and how do you think that is likely to change in the future? SR: That’s a very good question and a difficult one to answer. [quote from WE website today]

    “We’ve had the environmental standard ISO 140001 for some years, but people here feel there is more we could be doing,” says Aimee Nelson. [quote from Siemens website today]

    Let's get real and downgrade all green rated buildings which use less than the national reuse average of reclaimed building materials from excellent to very poor.

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  • It's puzzling that the GLA doesn't own the City Hall, given that it was surely purpose-built and sensibly located.

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  • Yes absolutely crazy GLA pays rent! Time to renationalise the building from Kuwait!

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