by Avantika ShankarMar 01, 2021
The pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill. Streets of cities like London, which buzzed with life all through days and nights, were pushed into a deep slumber. Oxford Street that attracted over 200 million people a year, today appears deserted even at peak hours of the day. To get the wheels rolling again, plans have been initiated to add new elements and diversify the street’s spaces. Unfortunately, these visions though noble will take years to become reality. Nevertheless, Westminster City Council has sought to install a renewed interest in the area. Marble Arch Hill, part of the £150 million ($208 million) Oxford Street District transformation project, is a hollowed-out mountain based on a scaffolding structure that will redefine the connection between Oxford street and Hyde Park. This temporary installation will open in July 2021, aiming to create a renewed interest in the area.
Designed by Dutch architectural firm MVRDV, Marble Arch Hill is set to tower over its John Nash-designed neighbour, Marble Arch. This 25-metre hill uses a scaffolding structure at its base. This structure will support plywood and soil on which a carpet of greenery will be sowed. At key points, provisions have been made to place planters that will house trees on the hill.
Marble Arch Hill offers diverse angles and perspectives, making it hard to be missed by the visitors. Visitors will reach the highest point of the hill trekking via a single continuous route from the southern slope. Reaching the top, they will be greeted with a spectacular view of the Hyde Park and the Marble Arch. The visitors will then descend to a well illuminated, spacious hall, placed in the heart of the hill. The hall serves as a space to organise events, exhibitions and a multiple range of other activities. To ensure the temporary structure is an offset from the Marble Arch, MVRDV has located the exit at a notch in the corner of the hill.
Being a temporary installation, it is of utmost importance to ensure that the structure produces a minimum of waste when disassembled. Keeping that in mind, the design has been charted out with reuse of elements in mind. For example, in the future the top layer of the hill consisting of wood, soil, grass and trees can be reused in the parks and gardens surrounding the hill.
MVRDV says the design draws from two of its former projects. It recalls its 2004 proposal for the Serpentine Pavilion in Hyde Park, the only iteration of the pavilion that the museum was unable to realise. The mountain concept comes from the 2016 Stairs to Kriterion installation in Rotterdam.
The history of the site plays a major role in articulating the inspiration of the installation proposed by MVRDV. Marble Arch once graced the corner of Hyde Park. However, in the 1960s, addition of new roads isolated the arch from the park and turned it into a traffic island, charring the charm it behold. MVRDV’s design imbibes the beauty of nature and reflects its relationship to Hyde Park. The 25-metre-tall viewpoint gives visitors a sketch of Oxford Street and the park while also delivering a refreshing perspective of the Marble Arch itself.
“This project is a wonderful opportunity to give an impulse to a highly recognisable location in London”, says MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas. “It’s a location full of contradictions, and our design highlights that. By adding this landscape element, we make a comment on the urban layout of the Marble Arch, and by looking at the site’s history, we make a comment on the area’s future. We enlarge the park and lift it at the corner. Marble Arch Hill strengthens the connection between Oxford Street and the park via the Marble Arch. Can this temporary addition help inspire the city to undo the mistakes of the 1960s, and repair that connection?”
Name: Marble Arch Hill
Location: London, United Kingdom
Client: Westminster City Council
Programme: Temporary Installation
Founding Partner in charge: Winy Maas
Director: Gideon Maasland
Design Team: Gijs Rikken, Sanne van Manen, Joanna Wirkus, Paulina Kurowska
(Text by Sharmin Oanali, intern at STIRworld.com)