The £2m Marble Arch Mound is a Westminster Folly

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

For an attraction designed to entice us back onto London’s best-known shopping artery, the Marble Arch Mound has failed spectacularly - yet, is anyone surprised? Despite visions of Arthur’s Seat-style majesty and appealing CGI projections (they always are), reality has, predictably, not lived up to expectation.

Abruptly shorn off at the back as though someone has plated up a 25m-high slice of hillock cake, it’s drawn comparisons to clunky video game graphics, and my favourite, Teletubby Hill, the home of Tinky Winky, La-La et al.

But unlike the unnervingly cheerful toddler’s show, there’s no benevolent sun, real or metaphorical, smiling on this patchy grassed abomination.

The Mound is now open to the public and the most enjoyment to be had from it is by looking through snaps of the first visitors clambering off the 130 steps, their faces pulled down into crescent-moons of disappointment. Views barely look into Hyde Park’s greenery (as initially advertised); instead there were thickets of building works and angry traffic to look at. I was flummoxed to find there’s an entry fee; the best part of a fiver to trudge up a hill apparently designed by the organisers of Fyre Festival and ordered from Wish, without even so much as a rudimentary slide to liven things up on the way back down? What was Westminster Council on when it approved this thing?

Poor Emma Wright who came from Crystal Palace (where there are far better hills to look at) deemed the Mound “the worst thing I’ve ever done in London”. She’s clearly not booked Up at the O2, where visitors willingly pay to scale the former Millennium Dome, another white elephant on the other end of town.

While other famous mounds are the long-lost burial places for Viking kings and hold priceless treasure, an M&S Food sits in the hollow of the man-made Marble Arch one - thank goodness, because the next closest one is a whole four minute walk away. I dread to think of the seas of crumpled sandwich boxes that will lap around this newly-instated eyesore in summers to come.

What’s worse is that the ‘attraction’ is a recycled concept, first imagined by Dutch architects MVRDV to bury the Serpentine Gallery back in 2004. It was scrapped back then, only to rear its lacklustre head now, when Oxford Street desperately needs footfall. It should have been given the same treatment as the now-abandoned Garden Bridge.

Of course, there’s a slim chance the Mound might look a bit better once the grass has had time to settle in, and the flower beds can flourish, but retailers are against the clock already. Approximately 17 per cent of all of them have closed their doors permanently thanks to the pandemic. Oxford Street must be saved, but I am afraid in its capacity to attract visitors, this mound is a molehill.

What do you think about the Marble Arch Mound? Let us know in the comments below.

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