The Battle of Waterloo might have transformed London, turning Hyde Park Corner into what the Mechanics’ Magazine in 1830 called the capital’s ‘grand entrance’. There was to be a triumphal arch, triumphal statues, and I don’t know what, all ‘triumphal’. But this wasn’t Paris, and very little got done Decimus Burton’s Wellington Arch only arrived by accident, when George IV’s megalomaniac plans for Buckingham Palace went pear-shaped. July 4 will see the unveiling of a Wellington Arch equivalent in Atlanta, Georgia, designed by Hugh Petter of Robert Adam Architects.
American planners and philanthropists have found that monuments are a spur to urban regeneration. Our own efforts have been mixed. The best of the recent examples is Liam O’Connor’s Commonwealth Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill. I wish I could summon more enthusiasm for the Australian memorial (blocks of granite) and the New Zealand memorial (slabs of bronze) on Hyde Park Corner. I’ve only just realised they are memorials at all. As for the monstrous Animals in War Memorial in Park Lane, one has to ask, as one contemplates it at greaterlength than one might wish from the window of a stationary vehicle: why?