The Marble Arch Mound has become notorious for how bad it is meant to be, so where better to go on a Sunday morning than visit it?
The best part, which definitely justifies a visit (and would even if the tickets were not free once more), is the art display inside, with some very ingenious uses of lights and mirrors.
From a few angles, it’s possible to get an impression of what was originally in the mind of the designers of the mound.
From many angles, however, it looks like something even now only half done and without the loving attention to stylish detail that great urban art manages. It’s like a Microsoft Zune rather than an Apple iPod.
But my main impression from the visit is that the mound suffers from not being nearly tall enough, lower even than some of the surrounding buildings. A lot can be forgiven if you get a great view, but without a great view, a viewing platform has a flaw that not even free access can compensate for.
It also suffers from (attempting to) be a mound of grass and trees in a location where… it is already surrounded by grass and trees. Far from being an alien intrusion of nature into an urban landscape (see, I could have written the mound’s press release), it is too similar to what is near it.
In that respect, it’s a failed version of Christo’s oil drums on Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake from a few years ago. They were huge, bizarre and incongruous – and a hit for being so. Plus Christo is notorious for self-funding his work, so not only were they brilliant, they were taxpayer free.
Even without a Christo to pay for it, urban art done well is well worth paying for given the boost it can give to neighbourhoods and communities. But the Marble Arch Mound isn’t done well.