Visitors to the British capital’s newest attraction, billed by the government as a venue for “striking views” of Oxford Street and the city, are demanding refunds after the project turned out to be a patchy man-made hill surrounded by scaffolding, which was widely dubbed as an underwhelming muddy “monstrosity.”
The 25-metre-high monument is offering reimbursements for the price of admission, which ranged up to £8 or about $15, as local officials conceded the project officially known as the Marble Arch Mound wasn’t ready for public viewing and closed the site until further notice.
According to British media, the government pumped £2 million ($5.6 million) into the project which they said would bring a “new and meaningful experience” to London. Before it opened to the public this week, officials promised that the development would bring tourists back to the heart of London, after more than a year of stringent coronavirus measures that saw once bustling areas entirely deserted and almost 130,000 lives lost in the country.
It has since been deemed “an expensive exercise in pointlessness,” by one critic.
The issues with the mound were spotlighted earlier this week when freelance consultant Dan Barker visited the hill and documented his findings on Twitter - much to the delight of many who found his tweets to be entertaining and informative. Others heeded them as a warning: perhaps don’t visit yet.
Barker, comparing the artist sketch of the mound to reality, wrote “these plans never match reality, but it feels like they could probably clean the area up a bit.”
He then went on to share photos of supposed “360 degree views” obscured by leafy trees and areas “full of rubble.”
In a statement, The City of Westminster Council acknowledged that “elements” of the attraction were “not ready” for visitors and said those displeased with their visit had been offered their money back - or a free second visit once the site is in better shape to reopen.
A groundswell of uninspired visitors took to social media to detail their experiences.
“Sure, the Marble Arch Mound doesn’t look like the designs but that seems like a weird hill to die on,” joked one user.
Another uploaded a series of photos from the trip alongside the caption: “Marble Arch Mound is the worst thing I’ve ever done in London.”
While many saw the funny side of London’s pile of dirt, others branded the entire structure a catastrophic waste of money.
The mound was designed to offer a viewing platform of Marble Arch, a monument near Hyde Park.
The original Marble Arch, complete with sculpted panels, eight columns and Italian marble, was completed in 1833. It was originally designed as a formal entry point to Buckingham Palace. In 1850 it was moved to its current location of Cumberland Gate after officials deemed the gateway no longer extravagant enough.
It served as an entrance to Hyde Park before roads were widened during the 1960s which further isolated the Arch from the royal park. Ten years later, the monument was granted Grade I listed status.
MVRDV, the Dutch architectural team behind the Marble Arch Mound, defended its creation and asked visitors to give the attraction - and nature - time.
The company, which describes itself on social media as a team that creates “happy and adventurous places,” blamed London’s “challenging weather” conditions and the unpredictability of working with plants for the chaos, vowing that the artificial attraction would “get better,” The Daily Mail reported Thursday.
Among tourists and Londoners, confusion swirled as to why exactly the monument had been implemented.
“Why would I pay to walk up a hill?” one man told the BBC, while another said begrudgingly: “I’d go if it was free.”
The Washington Post