A large mound has appeared at Marble Arch and provoked an almost universal emotion of mockery.
What was promised to be a richly verdant woodland hill that people could climb up has ended up looking like someone raided the local greengrocer for some sheets of fake grass and piled them up on some boxes. A handful of trees poke out of large holes looking not unlike rockets launching into space from underground bunkers.
Rudimentary scaffolding stairs lead to the top, where an upturned shipping container box conceals a lift for those not wanting to walk.
A lot of the commentary has been about how the Marble Arch Mound doesn’t look anything like the CGI impressions that were shared earlier this year, and frankly, it really doesn’t look like them at all. The flat grass is not the undulating mounds we expected.
The Dutch studio that designed the Mound, MVRDV has responded saying that we need to give the grasses and planting time to grow. Whether that’s because the Mound opened too early for the planting to bed in, or that the builders ran late, so the plants didn’t have time to bed in is currently unknown.
What is known is that opening the Mound in its current state was bound to get derision, and tickets to climb to the top have been paused for a couple of weeks.
However, that’s a mistake.
The mound is not what people come here for — it’s the support for the main purpose, which is to give people views across Hyde Park, and maybe if you can see through the trees, a bit of Oxford Street. It’s a viewing platform that happened to be on top of a grass-covered pile of scaffolding.
The grass and trees are incidental.
That they were also promoted as a major feature of the Mound is a mistake of the marketing, and the failure to then deliver what was promised has led to justifiable ridicule.
One lesson from the fuss that can be hoped for is that architects downplay their CGI renders, and maybe the public be a little less demanding of CGI renders. Although I am sure an image involving a train will still have someone pointing out that the door handle that’s about 6 pixels of the image isn’t quite the correct colour for that brand of train operator.
Setting aside the scrappy thin grass covering over the Mound, the mound itself is damn impressive up close for the sheer size of the structure. In fact, it might have been more impressive without the planting and just covered in a monochrome tarpaulin.
And just as people love to go up to roof-top bars to have a drink, and see the view, this serves very much the same purpose, without the drink. It will give people a different perspective on an area that people think they know well.
Having seen it up close and how big the structure is, yes, I would have bought a ticket to go up there – except that they’ve stopped selling tickets at the moment due to the publicity. If you’ve got tickets already then you can go up, and a lot of people are coming here to see if the Mound is as awful as they’ve heard, and sitting there for a while I saw probably a dozen people do what I did, which was to walk up to the gate to ask if tickets are being sold today.
So they should be selling tickets today. People want to buy them.
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and while the Mound probably deserves most of the brickbats being thrown at it at the moment, maybe in a few weeks when the planting settles as we are told it will, people will come back and climb the stairs.
Not to see the mound, but to see the views from the mound.
Next time though, just reopen the Duke of York column.