Since the coronavirus pandemic began, we’ve seen cities and nations engage in all sorts of schemes to entice visitors back, from Sicily subsidising flights to Cyprus offering to pay for your holiday if you caught coronavirus. Trust London to come up with one of the more unusual ones, though. Westminster Council gave the green light to a 25-metre mound to be built right next to Marble Arch, with the hope that ‘Marble Arch Mound‘ would lure view-hungry Londoners back to the West End. It initially opened in late July, and unfortunately, it didn’t get off to the smoothest start…
Yes, whilst 2020 may have had Eat Out To Help Out, Westminster Council was banking on Mound Madness to bolster tourist numbers in 2021. How exactly did that go? Well, here was one reviewer with their take on Marble Arch Mound:
In summary: I enjoyed it. More as you might enjoy a bad statue of Christiano Ronaldo, or a car park Santa’s Grotto, with dogs pretending to be reindeer, than as a dazzling spectacle.
As long as you go with that expectation it is ok – just a shame it cost 2 million pounds. pic.twitter.com/Jyu90EQKFr
— dan barker (@danbarker) July 26, 2021
Oh, bless it…
Unfortunately, it was all downhill (or down mound) from there. The Mound was forced to weather some tough opening days, eventually offering refunds and free returns to some of the earliest visitors due to “teething problems”, and then closing for over a week in order to sort out some of said problems. Perhaps the problem lies with a classic case of expectation versus reality: here’s what the Marble Arch Mound was envisaged to look like, in the mocked-up images from its designers, Dutch architecture group MVRDV.
The finished product isn’t a million miles off, for sure, but given that the first guests compared it to scenery from early Playstation games and the Teletubbies, it didn’t landed quite how the organisers planned it. Anyway, they’d fixed the glaring issues by mid-August, and so Marble Arch Mound reopened to the public. With 60,000 people rumoured to have visited since then, making use of the free entry in August, they’ve taken the decision to keep the attraction free for the foreseeable future. Maybe for the best?
At a height of 25 metres, the Mound commands views over Hyde Park, Oxford Street, and Marble Arch itself, allowing us a new perspective on the area; further in the distance, you’ll be able to spot the London Eye and The Shard, amongst other sights. At least for the opening week, however, the £4.50 entrance fee netted guests sights of traffic and building materials, which perhaps explains the free entry. After initially being slated to cost £2 million, it was then revealed by Tory-led council’s deputy leader Melvyn Caplan that it was thought to have gone over budget by three times the initial cost. After an eye-watering £6 million cost, it’s little mystery as to why they wanted to charge people for the questionable mound…
But, alas, the landmark was always a temporary one, and it’s time for the mound to bid farewell. The mound we loved to hate, and then cemented meme status (they hit their target of 250,000 visitors, likely due to sheer fascination), is set to shut up shop this weekend on Sunday, January 9. Visitors are said to be rushing back to get one last glimpse of the landmark meme. Good on them, I say. Not every day you get to climb a landmark that was once described as ‘London’s Fyre Festival’ will have been long consigned to history. After its time has come to an end, the scaffolding will be reused and the plants, soil, and wood used in bringing the Mound to life will be rehomed in nearby gardens and parks. It’s the circle of life… albeit a pretty expensive circle that had many questioning where the funds could have gone.
Also published on Medium.