The structure was designed by the architectural team of David Marks and Julia Barfield, husband and wife. They submitted their idea for a large observation wheel as part of a competition to design a landmark for the new millennium.
None of the entrants won the competition, but the couple pressed on and eventually got the backing of British Airways, who sponsored the project.
Where's London Eye located?
The Coca-Cola London Eye is situated on the South Bank of the river Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament. The ticket office is located inside County Hall, which is the building directly next to the London Eye.
How to Get
Addres: The London Eye Riverside Building County Hall Westminster Bridge Road London
Tube: Westminster (Circle, Center and Jubilee lines) and Waterloo (Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo and City lines)
Buses: 211, 77 and 381.
January – March: 11 am – 6 pm
April and May: opening times vary depending on the day but usually one of two schedules applies – 11am to 6pm or 10am to 8:30pm
June, July and August: 10 am – 8:30 pm
September to November: 11 am – 6 pm
December: The majority of the month opening times are 11am to 6pm but between 21st December and new year times vary depending on the day.
The London Eye stands 442 feet (135 meters) tall — which means it’s taller than a football field is long. It has a circumference of 1391 feet (424 meters) and sits on the bank of the River Thames, near Jubilee Gardens. In 2000, when it was first built, it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world. But that soon changed. The Singapore Flyer, completed in 2006, stands 541 feet (165 meters) tall, and the Star of Nanchang, completed in 2006 in China, stands 525 feet (160 meters) tall. The Beijing Great Wheel in China is set to outdo them all. Slated for completion in 2009, it will be a whopping 680 feet (208 meters) tall.
The London Eye is the brainchild of David Marks and Julia Barfield, of Marks Barfield, a husband and wife architecture team. A 1993 competition organized by London’s Sunday Times called for monument ideas to mark the upcoming Millennium celebration. Marks Barfield’s concept of a city-centered, ever-turning wheel offering a unique bird’s-eye view is now the No. 1 paid-for tourist attraction in London. As of June 2008, 30 million people had visited the London Eye — not too shabby for a glorified Ferris wheel.
To pay for such a gigantic project, Marks Barfield collaborated with British Airways, which financed it, took 50 percent ownership and re-named the attraction the British Airways Millennium Wheel. The original project plan called for a development and construction process of two and a half years. However, funding and paperwork delays put off the project, which shrunk its construction time to 16 months. Tony Blair officially opened the Millennium Wheel on Dec. 31, 1999, and in March 2000, it opened to the public. Although it was originally only granted permission for a five-year stay, the planning council made the London Eye a permanent London attraction in 2002. As of 2005, however, the London Eye hadn’t yet turned a profit, and British Airways and Marks Barfield were in debt. In 2006, the Tussauds, a company that owns other attractions, bought the wheel and dropped “British Airways” from its name.
When the architects at Marks Barfield sat down to consider what structure would best commemorate the turning of the century, they noted that London didn’t have any observation points for people view the skyline and surrounding landscape. A tall, rotating wheel would not only allow a unique vantage point of the city, but would allow large numbers of people to see that view at the same time.
The London Eye is a modern take on a traditional Ferris wheel with a few distinct differences. For one, the passengers sit in fully enclosed capsules rather than dangling gondolas. Two, the entire structure of the London Eye is supported on one side only, allowing the wheel to hang over the River Thames.
The London Eye is an excellent example of a frame structure. Its steel design forms an “A” shape, with two large tapered legs at the base — 65 feet (20 meters) apart and each over 190 feet (58 meters) in length. The legs lean toward the river at a 65-degree angle. Cable backstays keep the frame from tilting into the river — they’re anchored to the top of the frame and then buried in a concrete foundation 108 feet (33 meters) deep.
The wheel part of the London Eye resembles a bicycle wheel — with a spindle and hub connected to the rim by 64 cables, or spokes. Sixteen additional rotation cables are attached to the hub at an opposing angle to ensure there’s no lag between the turning of the rim and the turning of the hub. The spindle itself is supported by the frame on one side only (cantilevered), and the frame holds the wheel over the river. The London Eye can withstand winds of a 50-year storm, the worst storm anticipated to occur once in a period of 50 years, and if it’s ever struck by lightning, the strike would be conducted to the ground with no harm to passengers.
The London Eye rotates around the hub much like a bicycle wheel, but motorized. Hydraulic motors, driven by electric pumps, provide energy to turn the wheel. The drive systems are located in two towers, one at each end of the wheel’s boarding platform. Here’s how the wheel turns: Standard truck tires along the rim of the wheel act as friction rollers. Hydraulic motors turn the tires, and the rotation of the tires turns the wheel. A computer controls the hydraulic motor speed for each tire.
The main components of the London Eye were built offsite. Once they were completed, barges transported them piece by piece up the River Thames to the construction site on the South Bank. Workers assembled the London Eye horizontally on a temporary support platform over the river, which made construction faster, easier and safer than if it had been built vertically. Once it was assembled, hydraulic lifts and cables slowly raised the 1,322 ton (1,200 tonnes) structure over the course of one day, until it reached its 65-degree angle. Once it was in final position, the 32 capsules were attached to the rim, which took eight days.
Instead of being suspended and swinging, the passenger capsules turn within circular mounting rings fixed to the outside of the main rim. As the wheel rotates, the capsules also rotate within their mounting rings to remain horizontal. If the capsules didn’t rotate, by the time your capsule went around the wheel, you and your friends would be upside down. Each capsule has its own heating and cooling system, bench seating and is fitted with special glass that can handle weather fluctuations. Capsules also have a built-in stability system, meaning the capsule will stay level even if all the passengers suddenly move to one side. There are 32 capsules, one to represent each borough of London.
Facts & Figuries
On average the London Eye receives more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza
On New Year’s Eye the London Eye was tested without passengers. On February 1st, 2000 it was tested with its first passengers. On March 9th, 2000 the London Eye opened to the public.