- The Marble Arch Mound opened in July and was intended to attract people to London’s retail center.
- The project’s boss quit after costs spiralled to $8.25 million – $3.7 million more than planned.
- The local council said that it “wasn’t ready for visitors when it opened” and offered refunds.
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The Marble Arch Mound did not quite go to plan.
The 25-meter-high artificial hill, built in the middle of London’s busy shopping district, was supposed to attract 280,000 visitors to the city’s retail center after the pandemic flattened sales.
But as soon as it opened on July 26, visitors ridiculed the temporary structure, with one comparing it with a piece of scenery from a low-fi 90’s video game. And, after costs ballooned $3.7 million (£2.7 million) beyond its expected price tag to $8.25 million, a local politician resigned.
Opposition political party, Labour, criticized the mound as a drain on taxpayers’ money.
I went to check out the mound for myself to see if it really was as underwhelming as people said.
The Marble Arch is a 188-year-old sculpture that was originally intended to sit outside Buckingham Palace, according to its website.
I could see mostly scaffolding as I walked up the mound’s 134 steps, and few trees and plants on the hill’s surface.
Despite the Marble Arch Mound’s website promising “a park-like landscape of grass and trees,” which would create “an experience of the great outdoors,” I could see little greenery and mostly building works from the “summit.”
I paid $6.19 for a ticket, although I was promptly offered a refund by the ticket company.
Westminster City Council, which commissioned the mound, sold single adult tickets for between $6.19 and $11.
The council quickly changed course and offered visitors refunds and free tickets for the rest of August.
Stuart Love, the council’s chief executive, said in a July 30 statement that the mound “wasn’t ready for visitors when it opened” and that his team was ” working hard to resolve the outstanding issues.”
At the top, I got some good views of London’s Oxford Street, Mayfair, and Hyde Park areas – but could have seen much more from a taller building.
The mound’s booking page estimates that visitors can spend about 45 minutes on top of the mound, although I struggled to see what there was to do beyond taking photos and walking around the perimeter.
Westminster City Council wanted the mound to help revitalize London’s retail district, and initially cost $2.8 million to build.
The hill’s construction cost $2.8 million, according to a council document.
The council wanted the mound to draw more people to the area as well as bring “green landscaping and trees to an area suffering from traffic pollution,” per the attraction’s webpage.
After costs later ballooned to $8.25 million, a local politician resigned. His boss said that the spiralling costs were “totally unacceptable.”
Melvyn Caplan, the council’s deputy leader and head of the project, resigned on August 13 after the mound’s costs ballooned to $8.25 million.
Council leader Rachael Robathan told the Evening Standard in a statement that the original cost forecast was $4.5 million — a price tag which included constructing, operating, and removing the structure.
“With regret, I have accepted the resignation of my deputy leader,” she said, per the Evening Standard. “We have also instigated a thorough internal review to understand what went wrong and ensure it never happens again.”
There were very few trees dotted on the mound’s surface and some looked a little worse for wear.
Dutch architecture firm MVRDV designed the mound and intended for it to appear as if the corner of London’s famous Hyde Park had been lifted up from the ground.
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