A new temporary installation will greet visitors in central London this summer. The project called Marble Arch Hill is a hollowed-out mountain based on a scaffolding structure that will redefine the connection between Oxford Street and Hyde Park. It will offer visitors rare views over the park and Marble Arch.
Oxford Street, one of Europe’s busiest shopping street, has been hit hard by Covid-19 measures and plans are underway to diversify the street’s spaces. But these changes will take a number of years. In the short term, Westminster City Council has sought to use a temporary installation to create renewed interest in the area as London could be emerging from the conditions imposed by the pandemic.
Marble Arch Hill will be experienced via a single continuous route. Visitors will climb to the viewpoint via a path that winds its way up the hill’s southern slope, after which they will descend into a great Hall in the heart of the hill, a hollowed-out space that will be used for events, exhibitions, and other happenings.
The exit from the Hall is located in a notch in the corner of the hill that ensures the temporary structure is offset from Marble Arch. In this way, visitors are confronted with multiple views on the arch, giving them a new perspective on an object they might otherwise take for granted.
Marble Arch was designed by John Nash in 1828. Its original spot was in front of Buckingham Palace but was moved next to Speaker’s Corner in 1851. Marble Arch Hill has been designed by architecture and design firm MVRDV.
This project is a wonderful opportunity to give an impulse to a highly recognizable location in London. By adding this landscape element, we make a comment on the urban layout of the Marble Arch, and by looking to the site’s history, we make a comment on the area’s futureMVRDV founding partner Winy Maas
MVRDV’s proposal takes inspiration from the history of the site. Marble Arch once marked the corner of Hyde Park, but in the 1960s new roads were added that turned the arch into a traffic island, disconnected from the rest of the park. The design introduces a park-like landscape of grass and trees, and ‘lifts’ this recreated corner of Hyde Park to create a spectacular 25-meter-tall viewpoint that gives visitors an overview of Oxford Street and the park, and a new perspective on Marble Arch itself.
Marble Arch Hill uses a scaffold structure on its base, which will support the plywood and soil layers needed for the grass upper layer to grow. The structure is adapted to hold large planters that will be home to trees. The design draws from two separate lineages of MVRDV’s work: the office showed the transformative potential of temporary scaffold structures with its 2016 Stairs to Kriterion installation in Rotterdam; the mountain concept, meanwhile, recalls the 2004 proposal for the Serpentine Pavilion nearby in Hyde Park. This design remains the only iteration of the Serpentine Pavilion that the museum was unable to realize; with the Marble Arch Hill, this ambitious idea will finally come to life.
Sustainability is an important consideration in the design of Marble Arch Hill. As a temporary structure, it is critical to ensure that it produces as little waste as possible when it is removed. Therefore the design is created with the reuse of elements in mind. The scaffolding structure can of course be disassembled and reused, while the elements that make up its top layer – wood, soil, grass, and trees – will all find new uses in nearby gardens and parks.