Imagine your city wanted to do something nice for you. Already you’re thinking — my, my, my, what did I ever do to deserve such a sweet city? Yes, it’s so wonderful. Imagine that your city wants to use just a few million of your tax dollars ($2.7 million) to give you a gift: a large, grassy dirt mound upon which you can (if you purchase a ticket) stand. “Stand and do what?” Stand and look. “Look at what?” Theoretically the skyline but in practice nothing.
And now you’re going to complain?
About your gift?
The mound, called Marble Arch Mound, which yes sounds like the name of a royal boy child, was part of Westminster Council’s plan to draw people back to city life “post” pandemic. It would stand in the middle of the city and offer views of Hyde Park. MVRDV, the Dutch architecture firm that designed the mound, posted this evocative scene about it in a Tweet from February 2021:
It's August 2021. You met some friends on Oxford Street to buy new sunglasses; now you're together on top of the new Marble Arch Hill, looking out for the sunniest spot in Hyde Park, where you will share a drink later. At this height, you feel a light breeze on your skin…
You want to feel that breeze. You want to have purchased those sunglasses. You want to stand on that mound. Plans for the project showed a big grassy dirt hill with trees — beautiful, yes? No. The plans soon ran into some difficulties, via the New York Times:
“Some of the problems were created by changes to the plan, Irene Start, an MVRDV spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. The company had initially hoped to build the hill over the 19th-century Marble Arch, which is similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
But the firm had been told that covering the arch for six months would risk damaging it, so it had to redesign the hill, making it smaller and steeper. Having steeper walls made it harder to plant proper vegetation, she said.”
Instead of a large mound with grass and lots of trees, Londoners got a smaller mound with a little bit of grass and scaffolding and maybe two trees. “Bollocks,” I’m sure many said. Yet you’d think the people of London would still be grateful to their fair city, because as we know, when it comes to gifts, it is the thought that counts. But no.
“You can’t see anything up there,” a man named Robby told the Times. “It was the worst 10 minutes of my life.” “It’s a monstrosity,” said a lady named Carol. These people tweeted this:
Thankless. Selfish. Unwilling to even consider feeling the breeze. Those who had purchased shitty mound tickets have since been refunded their £4.50, and further ticket sales are currently suspended.
In an interview with the Times, mound architect Winy Maas said he hoped the mound would look better soon; maybe the scaffolding will come down, and they will put some more grass patches over the grass patches that have already fallen off. And those of us who never questioned the shitty mound will truly be “on top,” then. Won’t we?