The London Eye, known for sponsorship reasons as the Coca-Cola London Eye, is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames in London.
The structure is 135 meters (443 ft) tall and the wheel has a diameter of 120 meters (394 ft). When it opened to the public in 2000 it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. The height of the 525-foot (160 m) Star of Nanchang in 2006, the 165 meters (541 ft) Singapore Flyer in 2008, and the 550-foot tall (167.6 m) 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”.
It is Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, and offered the highest public viewing point in London until it was superseded by the 245 meter (804 ft) high observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard, which opened to the public on 1 February 2013. It 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 London Eye adjoins the western end of Jubilee Gardens, formerly 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 meters (308 ft) tall and 82.3 meters (270 ft) in diameter. It stayed in service until 1906, by which time its 40 cars (each with a capacity of 40 persons) had carried over 2.5 million passengers. The Great Wheel was demolished in 1907 following its last use at the Imperial Austrian Exhibition.
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 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 for the permanent retention of the attraction, which involved the co-ordination of an Environmental Statement and the production of a supporting statement detailing the reasons for its retention. The spindle, hub, and tensioned cables that support the kidney.
The rim of the eye is supported by tensioned steel cables and resembles a huge spoked bicycle wheel. The lighting was redone 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 completed 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 manufactured 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.