In the early 1990s a competition was launched to design a millennium landmark and architects David Marks and Julia Barfield’s idea of a large ferris-wheel to adorn the London skyline was victorious. They wanted visitors and Londoners to enjoy the spectacular views London has to offer. After 7 years of consultation, and drawing from an international skills base, the then Millennium Wheel was erected at 135m above the city, along the banks of the River Thames. The funding for the project came from British Airways and the Tussauds Group, and on the 31st December 1999, the world’s largest observation wheel was officially opened by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Only the BT Tower, Tower 42 and One Canada Square in Canary Wharf are taller than the Wheel, making it the forth tallest structure in the Capital.
This most successful London landmark receives 3.5 million visitors every year, which is equal to 6,680 Boeing 747-400 jets, filled to capacity. During a 30 minute rotation (26cm per second), on a clear day, it is possible for the 800 passengers to see Windsor Castle from the top, which is 40km away.
The 32 capsules each weigh 10 tonnes, which is equal to the weight of 1,052,631 pound coins and can hold up to 25 people, or a smaller group for a private event, such as a wedding or a civil partnership. Packages start at £2,800 and vows are exchanged at the top of the rotation with wonderful photograph opportunities.
Since 20 January 2011, and agreeing a three-year sponsorship deal, the London landmark is now officially the EDF Energy London Eye and during the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Olympic rings will be displayed on the Wheel.
Sir Richard Rogers world-renowned architect, wrote of the London Eye:
“The Eye has done for London what the Eiffel Tower did for Paris, which is to give it a symbol and to let people climb above the city and look back down on it. Not just specialists or rich people, but everybody. That’s the beauty of it: it is public and accessible, and it is in a great position at the heart of London”
The London Eye is now as much a part of the Capital as Madam Tussauds, and a high priority on the list of ‘Must visit landmarks’ for not only tourists, by locals alike, and the experience encompasses the romance of the city of London.