By the late 20th century, the city hall as an archetype was largely seen simply as an administrative centre for local government. An office building with a grand public lobby and debating chamber. A civic monument from outside, but largely closed-off from the public inside. Public places to meet had in some countries been outsourced to the shopping malls!
As democracy has become more entrenched and wide-spread, its expression in the city hall has altered too. Now these buildings are increasingly seen as people’s palaces. A place owned by the people, but if you like, loaned out to bureaucrats, administrators and politicians as their place of work.
In order for the people to take possession of their building, and by extension their democracy, they must somehow be able to occupy it. All too often however, it seems that lip service is paid to such requirements by providing places for the public within the building, the grand foyer for example, rather than a truly public space.
Kengo Kuma and Associates have created a remarkable expression of free and open democracy with their Nagaoka-shi City Hall. It is also first-rate civic architecture.
At the heart of this City Hall concept is its mix of uses: a restaurant, cafe, a bank, and roofed plaza, in other words functions that people need every day. At the heart of the city is the City Hall. Its central location puts it within walking distance of the other city centre facilities, shops and services. The two work together in a symbiotic relationship.
At the heart of the building is a public square. It is covered with glass, timber panels and PV cells that help to create a climate break so it can be occupied all year round. Administrators and politicians working in the building can look on at the public life that flows through and be reminded of who they are there to serve
Reacquaint yourself with Kengo Kuma’s glass / wood house.