Harrington: Would we have grown to love the mound?

Friday, 15th July

Marble Arch mound 1

The Marble Arch Mound

“THROUGHOUT history, humanity’s innate bloodlust has manifested itself in countless forms, often under the palatable guise of entertainment – from the gladiatorial contests of Ancient Rome to the guillotine spectacles during the French Revolution.”

So writes Hiba Alobayadi, an editor at the renowned Fosters+Partner architectural firm. But take a guess at where her essay for the latest edition of the RIBA Journal is headed.

It sure paints a picture, and Ms Alobayadi is here with her take on the public reaction to the disastrous Marble Arch Mound – the dismantled structure which drank up £6million of public money and led to the resignation of the deputy leader of the council.

Amid the mix of outcry and derision, she suggests that Britain’s “cancel culture” helped pave the way for its demise.

Architects “find themselves at the mercy of public opinion more than ever before”, she warns, “fuelled by social media, a kind of warped architectural Darwinism; a survival of the fad-est, if you will”.

The argument goes that there are many structures around the world that were received badly when they first appeared, but with the passing of time became favourites.

Come to think of it, as all good record shop owners will tell you, it is true that if you listen to Dire Straits enough times, in the end you find you like at least one of their songs.

“There are, indeed, a great number of examples of architecture and urban design projects that were initially not well received but for which an appreciation grew over time,” Ms Alobayadi explains.

“So, why is it beyond the realms of possibility that the same could occur with the Marble Arch Mound? Many Parisians, for example, considered the Eiffel Tower an eyesore when it first opened before it was later accepted, or reinterpreted, as an architectural icon.

“We would do well to remember that not all cult classics of architecture and urbanism were necessarily deemed so by their contemporaries.”

So perhaps, all the Marble Arch Mound needed was a little bit of time. It’s well worth reading the Riba Journal for Ms Alobayadi’s full defence.

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