The London Eye
The London Eye is, as of December 2003, the largest Ferris wheel in the world. It stands 135 metres high on the bank of the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament in Lambeth, London, England, close to Westminster Bridge. The wheel was constructed in sections which were floated up the Thames on barges and assembled lying flat on pontoons on the river. Once the wheel was complete it was raised into its upright position by cranes. The wheel was initially lifted at about a rate of 1 degree every half hour until it reached 65 degrees, where it stayed whilst engineers prepared for the second phase of the lift, which took place a week later. Once fully raised it was visible over a huge area, and many Londoners who had been sceptical about the project found themselves impressed by the sight.
The Eye, sometimes called the Millennium Wheel, was opened by British Prime Minister Tony Blair on December 31, 1999, although it was not actually opened to the public until March 2000 because of "technical problems". Since its opening the Eye, operated by Tussauds Group but sponsored by British Airways, has become a major landmark and tourist attraction. There are 32 sealed, air conditioned, passenger capsules attached to the wheel which rotates slowly so that a complete revolution takes about 30 minutes to complete. The wheel does not usually stop to take on passengers; its rotation is so slow that passengers can walk on and off the moving capsules at ground level. It is stopped on occasion to allow disabled or elderly passangers time to alight safely.
London Eye at night ()
Panorama of London taken from the London Eye. ()
The Eye enjoyed a warmer reception from the British public upon its opening than London's other significant Millennium project, the Dome, although the delay in opening had caused some press scepticism. By July 2002 around 8.5 million people had 'flown' the eye. At that time Lambeth Council agreed plans to make the attraction permanent.
London Eye cabin ()
The London Eye is the brainchild of architects David Marks and Julia Barfield.
Structurally the Eye resembles a huge spoked bicycle wheel, and was depicted as such in a poster advertising a charity cycle race.
Although the Eye is currently listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, it is unlikely to stay there for long. Plans have been announced to build a 170m wheel on the Las Vegas Strip and a 200m wheel in Shanghai.
Ownership of the Eye is divided between British Airways with 33 percent, the Tussauds Group and its creators.
See also: Tall buildings in London
Nearest rail and tube stations