By Hannah Neary, Local Democracy Reporter
Plans for a fake hill just like the Marble Arch Mound, designed by the same firm and intended to be built just down the road were thrown out 15 years ago.
Dutch architects MVRDV devised an almost identical mound to be built on top of the Serpentine Gallery – but it never materialised.
Much like the £6 million mound, MVRDV’s ‘Serpentine Pavilion’ promised far-reaching views and comprised a vast green structure dotted with trees and a sloping stairway lined by railings.
Unlike the Westminster attraction, which serves as a viewing platform to the Marble Arch, the Serpentine project was intended to completely cover the gallery.
The plans were revealed in 2004 but it was never built due to financial and technical issues.
Westminster City Council spent £6 million on the Marble Arch Mound and announced on August 31 that fees for the pop-up attraction will be completely axed before it closes for good in January next year.
Melvyn Caplan, deputy leader of the Tory-led authority, resigned in August after it was revealed that the hill would cost triple its £2 million cost.
Former director of the Serpentine Julia Peyton-Jones said MVRDV’s plan for an artificial hill in 2004 was “amazing and brave” but “incredibly expensive”.
In an interview with Dezeen in 2015, she said: “It underscores that some projects in architecture don’t happen and I think of it as an heroic failure on all parts.
“The health and safety considerations were enormous.
“After much agonising we decided very, very regretfully that it couldn’t go ahead.”
Westminster City Council hoped the 25m-high mound would views of Oxford Street, Hyde Park, Mayfair and Marylebonea and attract 200,000 visitors.
But it has been dubbed “London’s worst tourist attraction” and a “BTEC Eiffel Tower” after dead plants dropped off the side.
A city council spokesperson said more than 60,000 people have visited the mound so far.
They added: “We believe continuing to offer free entry will encourage even more people to visit and spend time in our city – boosting local business, protecting jobs and bringing the buzz back to our streets.”
By 2005, the Serpentine Gallery dropped MVRDV’s plans for the Serpentine Pavilion and appointed Rem Koolhaas, another Dutch architect, to deliver an alternative scheme.
A statement on the MVRDV’s website says the design of the Marble Arch Mound stemmed from its plans for the Serpentine Pavilion as well as its 2016 Stairs to Kriterion installation in Rotterdam.
It adds: “This design remains the only iteration of the Serpentine Pavilion that the museum was unable to realise; with the Marble Arch Hill, this ambitious idea will finally come to life.”
Co-founders and principal architects of MVRDV Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs are listed as being in charge of the Serpentine Pavilion on the firm’s website while the budget is “undisclosed”.
Maas is also listed as the partner in charge of the Marble Arch Hill.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the Serpentine Gallery how much MVRDV’s pavilion was expected to cost and why it was never built.
A spokesperson for the gallery did not reveal the cost of the project and said the plans were not the same as the Marble Arch Mound.
They added: “The project for the Serpentine was postponed indefinitely due to outstanding technical and financial issues.
“It remains an important part of the Pavilion series as an unrealised project.”
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