MVRDV, the architects of the £6m Marble Arch Mound have blasted Westminster Conservatives for their failures in controlling costs, poor construction and ignoring warnings. “As a practice, we have rarely seen such a loveless execution of our designs,” they say.
In an article on their website, the Dutch architects say they “wish to provide our account of the events, while also critically examining our role in this and publicly acknowledging our mistakes.”
On costs, the architects say that “The cost of the whole project would be £1.25 million, of which 0.8 percent, £10,000, was set aside for the design.” As we now know, “The Marble Arch Mound’s costs escalated to £6 million, an inexplicable budget increase of almost £5 million for which we never received an adequate explanation,” according to MVRDV.
There was a catalogue of construction failures, according to the architects:
“The sedum on the hillside had dried out in places, appearing as though it hadn’t been watered in months. Some of it dried up during the week of intense summer heat ……It was never replaced. Some planting ……was not completed at all, with the sad low point being on the west side, where plastic sheeting offered a pitiful stand-in, as if we’d run out of plants.”
“The elevator at the crest of the mound was unfinished and stuck out like a sore thumb above the hill. The vegetation’s irrigation system was flawed, spilling water into the street……. The overall impression of it was that it had been left to rot in the middle of London’s most important shopping district.”
“When we were finally able to travel and see the project for ourselves, the deception was obvious: there had been virtually no maintenance, making the waste of money complete. What should have been a celebration of London became a loveless installation that, with a few nice green plants here and there, provides a glimpse of what might have been. In our thirty years of practice, MVRDV has never before experienced such nonchalance and laxity with our design work.”
The architects also accuse Westminster Council of failing to manage the project effectively. MVRDV say
“WCC commissioned FM Conway to realise the project and then barely looked at it again.…. Through a mixture of budget constraints and a lack of communication, many details concerning the mound’s construction were decided without our involvement….. and frequent communication efforts from our side toward WCC were increasingly ignored.”
Warnings were also ignored by the Council, according to MVRDV:
“Warnings from our side about a possible premature opening were ignored….. The Marble Arch Mound was opened while still unfinished….Visitors who paid £8 the first weekend were so insulted by the experience that they rightfully complained via social media. Journalists were shocked and voiced their critiques loudly. In short, Marble Arch Mound went viral, but not in a good way. The nonsensical decision to open the facility prematurely was nothing short of a disaster.“
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour City Management spokesperson, said:
“This is a further devastating indictment of Westminster Conservatives’ waste of £6 million of public money. A project that was initially designed to cost £1.25m ballooned through the Council’s gross incompetence to a massive £6 million. The execution of the project was totally mismanaged, yet it was overseen by the Council’s highest paid employee earning £220,000 a year.”
“The Council’s internal report failed to pick up any of MVRDV’s first-hand experience of this financial and construction fiasco. Why did costs escalate so wildly? Why was the execution of the project such an unmitigated disaster? Why were warnings about the premature opening ignored?”