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(or city hall), a building used for purposes of urban self-government in a number of European countries.
The architectural model of the town hall essentially took shape between the 12th and 14th centuries. It included elements of the fortress and religious architecture. The town hall was usually a two-story building whose structural nucleus was an assembly hall on the second floor, where there was also a balcony or alcove from which to address the townspeople. It was frequently crowned with a many-tiered tower symbolizing the independence and political freedom of the city.
The Gothic style greatly influenced the design of German town halls (for example, the town hall in Stralsund, 1278–15th century) and Flemish town halls, the latter distinguished by their height—often three stories (for example, the town hall in Oudenaarde, 1526–37, architect H. van Pede). In the 16th and 17th centuries elements of Renaissance and baroque architecture were introduced into the essentially medieval design. Construction of the town hall was resumed in the 19th century and greatly increased in the 20th century. The contemporary town hall, as a rule, is a functional administrative building whose design sometimes reflects the style of the surrounding buildings.
In what is now the USSR, in the 13th to 17th centuries town halls were built in the western regions of the Ukraine and Byelorussia and in the Baltic area (for example, the town hall in Tallinn, 14th and 15th centuries).