The London Eye is a cantilevered observation wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. It is Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel, and is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over 3.75 million visitors annually, and has made many appearances in popular culture.
The structure is 135 metres (443 ft) tall and the wheel has a diameter of 120 metres (394 ft). When it opened to the public in 2000 it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. Its height was surpassed by the 160-metre (525 ft) Star of Nanchang in 2006, the 165-metre (541 ft) Singapore Flyer in 2008, and the 167-metre-tall (547.9 ft) High Roller (Las Vegas) in 2014. Supported by an A-frame on one side only, unlike the taller Nanchang and Singapore wheels, the Eye is described by its operators as “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel”.
The London Eye used to offer the highest public viewing point in London until it was superseded by the 245-metre-high (804 ft) observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard, which opened to the public on 1 February 2013.
The London Eye adjoins the western end of Jubilee Gardens (previously the site of the former Dome of Discovery), on the South Bank of the River Thames between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge beside County Hall, in the London Borough of Lambeth.
A predecessor to the London Eye, the Great Wheel, was built for the Empire of India Exhibition at Earls Court and opened to the public on 17 July 1895. Modelled on the original Chicago Ferris Wheel, it was 94 metres (308 ft) tall and 82.3 metres (270 ft) in diameter. It stayed in service until 1906, by which time its 40 cars (each with a capacity of 40 people) had carried over 2.5 million passengers. The Great Wheel was demolished in 1907 following its last use at the Imperial Austrian Exhibition.
Design and construction
The London Eye was designed by the husband-and-wife team of Julia Barfield and David Marks of Marks Barfield Architects.
Mace was responsible for construction management, with Hollandia as the main steelwork contractor and Tilbury Douglas as the civil contractor. Consulting engineers Tony Gee & Partners designed the foundation works while Beckett Rankine designed the marine works.
Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners assisted The Tussauds Group in obtaining planning and listed building consent to alter the wall on the South Bank of the Thames. They also examined and reported on the implications of a Section 106 agreement attached to the original contract, and also prepared planning and listed building consent applications for the permanent retention of the attraction, which involved the co-ordination of an Environmental Statement and the production of a planning supporting statement detailing the reasons for its retention.
The rim of the Eye is supported by tensioned steel cables and resembles a huge spoked bicycle wheel. The lighting was re-done with LED lighting from Color Kinetics in December 2006 to allow digital control of the lights as opposed to the manual replacement of gels over fluorescent tubes.
The wheel was constructed in sections which were floated up the Thames on barges and assembled lying flat on piled platforms in the river. Once the wheel was complete it was lifted into an upright position by a strand jack system made by Enerpac. It was first raised at 2 degrees per hour until it reached 65 degrees, then left in that position for a week while engineers prepared for the second phase of the lift. The project was European with major components coming from six countries: the steel was supplied from the UK and fabricated in The Netherlands by the Dutch company Hollandia, the cables came from Italy, the bearings came from Germany (FAG/Schaeffler Group), the spindle and hub were cast in the Czech Republic, the capsules were made by Poma in France (and the glass for these came from Italy), and the electrical components from the UK.
The London Eye was formally opened by the Prime Minister Tony Blair on 31 December 1999, but did not open to the paying public until 9 March 2000 because of a capsule clutch problem.
The London Eye was originally intended as a temporary attraction, with a five-year lease. In December 2001, operators submitted an application to Lambeth Council to give the London Eye permanent status, and the application was granted in July 2002.
On 5 June 2008 it was announced that 30 million people had ridden the London Eye since it opened.
The wheel’s 32 sealed and air-conditioned ovoidal passenger capsules, designed and supplied by Poma, are attached to the external circumference of the wheel and rotated by electric motors. The capsules are numbered from 1 to 33, excluding number 13 for superstitious reasons. Each of the 10-tonne (11-short-ton) capsules represents one of the London Boroughs, and holds up to 25 people, who are free to walk around inside the capsule, though seating is provided. The wheel rotates at 26 cm (10 in) per second (about 0.9 km/h or 0.6 mph) so that one revolution takes about 30 minutes. It does not usually stop to take on passengers; the rotation rate is slow enough to allow passengers to walk on and off the moving capsules at ground level. It is, however, stopped to allow disabled or elderly passengers time to embark and disembark safely.
In 2009 the first stage of a £12.5 million capsule upgrade began. Each capsule was taken down and floated down the river to Tilbury Docks in Essex.
On 2 June 2013 a passenger capsule was named the Coronation Capsule to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Courtesy of Wikipedia