County Hall in London
County Hall (sometimes called London County Hall, LCH) is a building in Lambeth, London, which was the headquarters of London County Council and later the Greater London Council (GLC). The building is on the bank of the River Thames, just north of Westminster Bridge, facing west toward the City of Westminster, and close to the Palace of Westminster. The nearest tube stations are Waterloo and Westminster.
Today County Hall is the site of businesses and attractions, including the London Sea Life Aquarium, a permanent exhibition of works by the artist-in residence, Nasser Azam, and a Namco Station amusement arcade. The London Eye is next to County Hall, and its visitor centre is inside the building. There is also a suite of exhibition rooms which was home to the Saatchi Gallery from 2003 to 2006, and is now home for the London Film Museum. Other parts of the building house two hotels (a budget Premier Inn & a 5 star Marriott Hotel), several restaurants, and some flats. Various spaces are available for hire for functions, including the council chamber at the heart of the building. Until January 2010 the Dali Universe was also in the building but this has now closed and will be reopening in another venue soon.
The main six storey building was designed by Ralph Knott. It is faced in Portland stone in an Edwardian Baroque style. The construction, which was undertaken by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts, started in 1911 and the building was opened in 1922 by King George V. The North and South blocks, which were built by Higgs and Hill, were added between 1936 and 1939. The Island block was not completed until 1974.
For 64 years County Hall served as the headquarters of local government for London. During the 1980s the then powerful Labour-controlled GLC led by Ken Livingstone was locked in conflict with the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. Since the Parliament buildings were just across the river from County Hall, the facade of County Hall frequently served as a billboard for anti-government slogans. When the government of Margaret Thatcher abolished the GLC in 1986, County Hall lost its role as the seat of London's government. Talk soon became of what was to happen to the building, and plans to relocate the London School of Economics to the site from its Westminster campus were over-ruled by Mrs Thatcher, seemingly disapproving of further slogans from students. The building remained in use by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) until its abolition in 1990 when the building was transferred to the London Residuary Body and eventually sold to private investors. On October 21, 2005, the High Court of England and Wales, upheld a bid by the owners of the building, Shirayama Shokusan, to have the Saatchi Gallery evicted, on grounds of violating its contract, particularly using space outside of the rented area for exhibits. Today, the majority of the building, including the entire fourth and fifth floors, remains empty since the dissolution of the GLC. Another small section of the building is occupied as a Premier Inn.
The County Hall Island Block, an annex of the main building, was demolished in 2006 to make way for a hotel. The building, also known as No 1 Westminster Bridge Road, had been disused since 1986 and had become a derelict eyesore.
The 2007 series of Comic Relief does Fame Academy was filmed and broadcast from County Hall.