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A hill for London

There are plenty of exciting sights to see in London, but with an average altitude of 15 metres above sea level the city has so far not tended to be known for its hills. That situation changed in summer 2021. On the north-eastern edge of Hyde Park, opposite the famous Speakers’ Corner and directly next to the historic Marble Arch, event structure specialist Overlay Events erected the Marble Arch Mound – an artificial, 22.5 metre-high hill with a substructure made from Layher scaffolding material – together with scaffolders PHD on behalf of Westminster City Council. The idea behind this spectacular project – which was planned by MVRDV, the renowned Dutch architecture practice – was to tempt tourists and shoppers with money to spend back to Central London again, and to Oxford Street in particular, after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown ended. 

In just two months, the British event and scaffolding specialists erected birdcage scaffolding made from Layher Allround material, including wide stairways and a viewing platform nearly 40 m2 in size. Allround Scaffolding forms the skeleton for the artificial hill, which has a ground plan of 2.168 m2 and was subsequently clad all over with a wooden structure. Water-retaining boards made from phenolic ply were mounted by the specialists on top of this structure, which was then completely covered with turf rolls. Together with real, organically distributed trees, the roots of which are buried in large tubs directly below the visible surface on a layer of Layher steel decks, they convey the impression of a real hill that you can walk on in the middle of the city. The Layher scaffolding material bears a load of 400 tons.  

Allround wherever you look
134 steps made from Layher material take visitors along a winding path up to the summit. A separate elevator was installed on the inside of the structure to enable wheelchair access to the viewing platform. When they’ve had their fill of the spectacular view from the top, an Allround stairtower allows visitors to descend safely into the heart of the Marble Arch Mound. The integrated Allround FW System there houses a 324 m2 exhibition hall that includes a light exhibition called “Lightfield” by W1Curates and the British-American artist Anthony James. The Allround FW System was specially developed for bridging wide spans and supporting loads in scaffolding structures. James has been creating post-minimalist sculptures that use tricks of light and mirroring to achieve breathtaking effects since the 2000s.

Digital planning is the foundation for success
The detailed technical planning, calculations and design for the project in 3D were carried out by PHD and Overlay Events design department, allowing all potential problems to be identified and resolved unbureaucratically upfront. “It was the same as with any major building site in a big city: the logistics of the materials for the Marble Arch Mound presented us with an additional challenge, because to avoid any 

undue delays in the site work, all necessary parts had to be delivered just in time on account of the limited storage space”, explains Sean Pike, Managing Director of  Layher UK. “The coordination with Overlay and PHD could not have been smoother, and the Allround material was able to show off its full potential when it comes to  efficiency and safety. By choosing reusable scaffolding material for what is, after all, a temporary project, we also sent out a strong signal in the current sustainability debate”, Pike adds. After the structure has been dismantled again, the entire Allround material will be reused by PHD for future scaffolding projects.

The crazier, the better
The main contact for all aspects of the project’s implementation was Overlay Events, the London agency specialised in the planning and realisation of temporary architecture for music festivals, sporting events and similar large-scale happenings. “Impossible has never been part of our vocabulary”, says Garreth Hannon, Director of Overlay. “The more complex an idea and the crazier it is, the more creativity it sets free. And what could be crazier than building an artificial hill in the middle of London,” he adds with a twinkle in his eye. “What system could do it better than the Integrated System from Layher that offers more possibilities everywhere, here included?” PHD Access, the London scaffolding and access provider which has developed numerous innovative scaffolding solutions for other projects in the past in the course of its more than 35-year history, was contracted to carry out the scaffolding work. PHD is winner of numerous awards, such as the “Access and Scaffolding Specialist” category for the third time in a row at the 2020 CN Specialist Awards. The company has been working with Layher material since 2005 and appreciates the multiple benefits of Layher systems. “Our goal is to deliver solutions that exceed client expectations every time. Layher and their Integrated Scaffolding Systems are simply perfect for the job,” comments Danny Dwyer, Managing Director of PHD. The very tight schedule alone placed considerable demands on his team. Against that background, the easy, rapid and invariably safer assembly using standard material from the modular Allround Scaffolding System played a fundamental part in getting the project finished on time.





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