The London Eye is one of the more famous structures rising on the landscape of London. It is an enormous Ferris wheel that sits on the south bank of the River Thames. It is on the west end of Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank and it stands roughly 135 metres in height. The wheel itself has a diameter of 120 metres. It is by far the tallest structure of its kind in the European Union.
The architectural design process of the London Eye was a convergence of a wide range of influences. A number of different architects are credited with the design of the London Eye. The primary individuals cited as the architects of the London Eye are Frank Anatole, Julia Barfield, Steven Chilton, Nic Bailey, Malcolm Cook, Mark Sparrowhawk, and David Marks.
Design and Construction
The wheel has 32 passenger carts and they are all sealed shut from the outside. Each capsule is air conditioned to provide a comfortable year-round range of service. The capsules are all designed to represent one of the boroughs of London and they all weigh 10 tonnes when they are empty. One revolution of the London Eye takes around 30 minutes to complete, with variances here and there to allow for disabled and elderly passengers to board. It is designed to be continuously in motion and only stops to give disabled or elderly passengers time to board.
Components for the wheel were floated up the River Thames and were assembled flat on the ground before being raised. The pieces were lifted up by using a strand jack system. Once the wheel was constructed, there were varying stages of lift undertaken. The first stage brought the wheel up to only a 65 degree position and left the wheel like that for over a week. This allowed the engineers to prepare the foundation in a more durable fashion. The total weight of the entire London Eye is 1,700 tonnes and was created out of materials that were manufactured by European Union members.
The London Eye was originally owned by Tussauds Group, British Airways, and the Marks Barfield family. Tussauds bought out the other investors to gain 100% ownership of the wheel in 2006. In 2007, Merlin Entertainment bought the Tussauds Group and now maintains full ownership of the London Eye.
The formal opening ceremonies for the London Eye were held on December 31, 1999 as part of the millennial celebrations in London. It has since been called the Millennium Wheel by many Londoners. Despite its official "opening" ceremony, the London Eye was not actually opened to the public until March of 2000 due to some minor technical issues.
On January 1, 2005, the London Eye was the major focal point in London's New Years Eve celebrations. This has continued to present day.
Today, the London Eye is one of the tourist attractions in London and is also very popular with local Londoners. It has provided rides to over 30 million people since its opening in 2000.