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Blog/They took all the trees, and put ’em in a tree museum…

27th July 2021

…and they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them.

Visitors to Hyde Park Corner can now enjoy an elevated view of Oxford Street as of today, thanks to a £2m project that’s part installation, part tourist attraction, and part aid to economic development (it’s claimed).

‘The Marble arch Mound’ is a temporary 25 metre tall hill, constructed out of scaffolding, boarding and some sort of turf/astroturf, featuring 130 steps that allow users to climb to a viewing platform on the summit, for which they charge the princely sum of £8.

Lord mayor of Westminster, Jonathan Glanz of Westminster City Council, who commissioned the project, said “I think it’s really exciting to see this coming out of the ground and giving a new aspect – literally – of views in this part of London.”

Leader of Westminster City Council Cllr Rachael Robathan said the project had two aims: “First, to draw and encourage people back into the centre and Westminster. We know that footfall is still down by about 50% so we really need to show that it’s open for business. Second, I hope that when people climb up here and see these fabulous views, they’ll be able to see Oxford Street through fresh eyes.”

Kay Buxton, Chief Executive of Marble Arch London Business Improvement District, was equally enthusiastic, adding that she thought The Marble Arch Mound would prove to be a ‘much-needed shot in the arm for the recovery of London’s hospitality sector’.

However, that enthusiasm wasn’t shared by many of the people it’s designed to appeal to following its unveiling.

Some of the main gripes people seem to have with the mound is that it’s poorly constructed and looks very little like the renderings that were used to sell the project, and unsurprisingly does not give the ‘nature in the heart of the city’ feel that was intended, rather an artificial imitation built on tonnes and tonnes of clearly visible scaffolding.

Other people have noted that the renderings were incredibly flexible with the placement of the trees around marble arch when describing what visitors will be able to see from the top – most of which now obscure anything and everything bar more construction works.

£2m doesn’t seem like a huge amount of money in the grand scheme of things, and I’m sure it will draw people to the area, if just to look at the mound for themselves in bemusement.

However, as @danbarker has pointed out, if people are to warm to the project, it’s most likely to be in the same way they did to a horribly touched up portrait of The Madonna in a chapel in Spain, a winter wonderland without snow in a car park in Slough, or a terrible waxwork of Mr Bean rather than a credible project that can contribute to the area in any meaningful way.

And for me, the idea of creating a synthetic hill out of scaffolding, telling people it’s ‘nature’ and charging them £8 to climb it, while justifying its existence by using words like ‘diversity’, ‘greener’ and ‘smarter’ (they actually did!) encapsulates life in 2021.

The Marble Arch Mound will be in place until January 2022 – however, Hyde Park is right next to it, free and will be for the foreseeable future – go there instead people.

Maddison Creative is a design studio in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK, specialising in Web design, digital creative and graphics.

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