Construction begins on new Raleigh City Hall by Henning Larsen and RATIO Design

“House for the People”

Construction begins on new Raleigh City Hall by Henning Larsen and RATIO Design

The new building is perched above Raleigh’s historic Nash Square. (Courtesy Henning Larsen)

Shovels broke ground today on a new city hall for Raleigh, North Carolina, by Henning Larsen. The 17-story civic structure is being built atop a former police station just north of historic Nash Square. RATIO Design, a local firm, is the architect of record.

Currently, City of Raleigh employees are spread out across multiple buildings. This sprawl is both inefficient and costly. Thus, the new 362,000-square-foot city hall will centralize the City of Raleigh’s downtown workforce into one location, architects at Henning Larsen said.

Consolidating the city’s workforce into a single locale will save tax payers up to $160 million over the course of 30 years, planners estimated.

exterior of Raleigh City Hall with expansive greenspace
The first three floors will host the building’s public-oriented functions. (Courtesy Henning Larsen)

Construction on the new $206 million Raleigh City Hall marks phase one of the Raleigh Civic Campus Master Plan—an urban design strategy completed in 2018 by SOM in association with HH Architecture, and others. Henning Larsen began designing the new civic building in 2019, one year after the master plan was finished, and demolition on the old police station began in January 2023.

The site is called Avery C. Upchurch block. For years, the parcel on Nash Square hosted the Raleigh Municipal Building and a police station, until those were demolished last year. It’s bounded by McDowell Street to the east, Hargett Street to the south, Dawson Street to the west, and Morgan Street to the north.

atrium space of Raleigh City Hall
Reception area (Courtesy Henning Larsen)

The building’s bottom three floors were conceived as a “house for the people,” designers stated, and will be open to all Raleigh residents. The bottom section will contain the new city hall’s public-oriented functions like a new public service center, council chamber, conference facilities, and an art gallery with access to a series of landscaped terraces. Atop the “house for the people” will be private functions, including offices, conference facilities, and even wellness space for staff.

Raleigh City Hall service area
Service center (Courtesy Henning Larsen)

Renderings of the new Raleigh City Hall show a tower above a podium aesthetically unified by a modular facade, a civic-oriented ensemble that evokes what Reyner Banham would call New Brutalism. Interiors in the new city council chamber will be finished in mostly wood and filled with light. The ample daylighting and materiality recalls civic spaces by Alvar Aalto, perhaps a nod to the firm’s Scandinavian roots.

While the forthcoming city hall certainly has Brutalist sensibilities, not unlike Boston or Dallas City Hall, Henning Larsen’s design is meant to be congruous with Raleigh’s status as a 21st century city of innovation, architects said.

interior chamber
Seating in the new City Council chamber uses wood. (Courtesy Henning Larsen)
facade detail
Facade detail (Courtesy Henning Larsen)

The design, Henning Larsen offered, is meant to maximize daylight access for workers. From their desks, city employees will be afforded sweeping views out to North Carolina’s verdant Piedmont region.

The form is envisioned as a simple ivory volume and based on the cubic shape of Mount Airy granite. Meanwhile, the transparent podium facade contextually alludes to the slender oak trees that line Raleigh’s streets.

A custom staircase cutes through the space on an angle. (Courtesy Henning Larsen)

Construction is slated for completion in 2027.