The town hall or city hall as a place of local governance is historically related to the founding of cities in medieval Europe. As the space of representative civic authority it aimed to set the terms of public space and engagement with the citizenry. In subsequent centuries, as the idea and built form travelled beyond Europe to become an established institution across the globe, the parameters of civic representation changed and the town hall was forced to negotiate new notions of urbanism and public space.

City Halls and Civic Materialism: Towards a Global History of Urban Public Space utilizes the town hall in its global historical incarnations as bases to probe these changing ideas of urban public space. The essays in this volume provide an analysis of the architecture, iconography, and spatial relations that constitute the town hall to explore its historical ability to accommodate the "public" in different political and social contexts, in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas, as the relation between citizens and civic authority had to be revisited with the universal franchise, under fascism, after the devastation of the world wars, decolonization, and most recently, with the neo-liberal restructuring of cities.

As a global phenomenon, the town hall challenges the idea that nationalism, imperialism, democracy, the idea of citizenship – concepts that frame the relation between the individual and the body politic -- travel the globe in modular forms, or in predictable trajectories from the West to East, North to South. Collectively the essays argue that if the town hall has historically been connected with the articulation of bourgeois civil society, then the town hall as a global spatial type -- architectural space, urban monument, and space of governance -- holds a mirror to the promise and limits of civil society.

part 1|13 pages


chapter 1|11 pages

City Halls

Civic Representation and Public Space

part 2|98 pages

Civic identity

chapter 2|39 pages

“A Laudable Pride in the Whole Of Us”

City Halls and Civic Materialism

chapter 3|22 pages

Civic or National Pride?

The City Hall as a Communal “Hotel” in Scandinavian Capital Cities

chapter 4|19 pages

Rebuilding City Halls in Postwar Germany

Architectural Form and Identity

chapter 5|16 pages

The Old Town Hall in Prague

An Unresolved Architectural Challenge 1

part 3|84 pages

Civic identity

chapter 6|21 pages

Town Halls in Australia

Sites of Conflict and Consensus

chapter 7|22 pages

Courting the Council

The Municipal Palace and the Popular Petition in Morelia, Mexico, 1880–1930 1

chapter 8|19 pages

The Bombay Town Hall

Engaging the Function and Quality of Public Space, 1811–1918 1

chapter 9|20 pages

Los Angeles City Hall

Space, Form, and Gesture

part 4|95 pages

Re-forming public space

chapter 10|18 pages

Politics, Planning, and Subjection

Anticolonial Nationalism and Public Space in Colonial Calcutta

chapter 12|18 pages

Moving Beyond Colonialism

Town Halls and Sub-Saharan Africa's Postcolonial Capitals

chapter 13|21 pages

Jakarta's City Hall

A Political History

chapter 14|16 pages

Seoul Spectacle

The City Hall, the Plaza and the Public

part 5|8 pages


chapter 15|6 pages

Public Space and Public Action

A Note on the Present