London's latest tourist attraction aimed for the heights. It has fallen a bit flat.
The Marble Arch Mound, an artificial hill beside one of the city's busiest intersections, opened this week — and is already offering refunds to disappointed visitors and admitting "teething problems."
Designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV, the mound is a 25m hill made from turf-covered scaffolding that claims to offer panoramic views of Hyde Park, Oxford Street and the surrounding area.
The hill's website describes it as "a new and meaningful experience that captures the imagination of residents, businesses and visitors," and local officials hope it will help draw people back to the commercial heart of London after more than a year of pandemic-related restrictions.
Visitors this week likened it to a construction site or a slag heap that bears little resemblance to the lush images on the website. A promised shop, cafe and exhibition space are unfinished.
Westminster Council, which is in charge of the mound, acknowledged that elements of it "are not yet ready for visitors".
The temporary attraction is due to remain until January. It said anyone who has booked to visit this week would be offered a refund and a free ticket for another visit "once it has had time to bed in and grow."
"The mound is a living building by design," the council said in a statement. "We'll continue to adapt and improve London's newest outdoor attraction and resolve any teething problems as they emerge."
But excited visitors arrived this week to find little more than a mound covered in patchy turf with some fledgling saplings sagging from it.
On top, that stunning vista is dominated by a construction site and streets crowded with rubbish bins.
From there, visitors were told they'd descend into the mound's hollowed-out interior to find a high-end cafe, a gift shop and an art exhibition space.
Instead, people are greeted with an almost entirely empty space that seems to be used for storage.
A mooted light show art piece also hasn't eventuated, although a number of cables can be found around the site.
It costs £8 ($16) for a ticket, so with that on offer, it's no wonder people are quite upset by the let-down.
Dan Barker was one of a number of Londoners to share his thoughts about the attraction, saying on Twitter: "I think they oversold it a bit and they should update the website to downgrade expectations."
But he added that he still enjoyed it – with a hefty caveat attached.
"I enjoyed it … as you might enjoy a bad statue of (Cristiano) Ronaldo or a car park Santa's Grotto with dogs pretending to be reindeer than as a dazzling spectacle."