I don’t know about you, but one thing that I wasn’t expecting to be part of the eventual reopening of central London was the construction of a 25m-high temporary mound at one end of Oxford Street. That’s apparently the plan, though. The ‘Marble Arch Hill’ is the most visually arresting/bonkers element of a £150 million development initiative by Westminster Council to inject new life into Oxford Street and Marble Arch, and attract visitors and tourists back into the West End.
Kay Buxton, chief executive of Marble Arch London BID said it is ‘a truly unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to see London from a completely new perspective. Marble Arch Hill is a clarion call to the recovery of London’s hospitality and leisure sector, in an enduring, world-renowned destination.’
Designed by Dutch architectural firm MVRDV, Marble Arch Hill is set to tower over its John Nash-designed neighbour from July 2021. It will be built on a scaffolding base, with layers of soil and plywood forming the mound. In its hollow centre will be a space for exhibitions and displays. Its viewing platform will offer views across Hyde Park, Marylebone and Oxford Street, with a path winding to the top among mature trees and plants. It’s like the Garden Bridge, only in a park and not a bridge. On its Twitter, MVRDV paints an alluring picture of the huge hummock in action: ‘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…’
The subtext to the tweet is that you won’t get a whole lot of time on top of the hill, with visitors being limited to 25 at a time. You will have to book in advance and possibly pay a ‘nominal’ entrance fee. With total visitors anticipated at around 200,000, that probably also means some queuing…
Reactions to the urban tumulus have been understandably mixed, with some people seeing it as a stupid distraction from more pressing issues. Others just question London’s infrastructural priorities: ‘So they can build a whole HILL next to Marble Arch but they can’t fix Hammersmith Bridge?’
Say what you like, though, it’s certainly original. So as you stand there freezing in your new sunglasses, lashed by summer rain and dying for a wee, with a line of grumpy punters behind you willing you to get off the top of the sodding mound, just be grateful for being out and about again. And if you really hate it, it’s only going to be there for six months.
Find more details of Marble Arch Hill on MVRDV’s website.
Love tall stuff? Work on the tallest building in the City is now complete.