It’s official! – the London Eye is the world’s most popular tourist attraction.
It is also the city’s most iconic structure. Not bad foe a design dreamed up at a kitchen table.
The London Eye has gone into the record books as the world’s tallest observation wheel, the highest vantage point in London, and according to buildings database Emporis -the most visited atrraction in the world.
This is a no means feat considering that it was only erected as part of the capital’s Millenium celebrations. Within months of its opening in March 2000 it was clear that it was a huge hit and within 2 years over 8,000,000 had taken a flight 135km (443ft) above the Thames. At one point it appeared it might have to close due to a dispute over ground rent, but by this time – no one could imagine London without the eye.
The obvservation wheel is the first cantilevered structure of its kind in the world and was dreamt up at a kitchen table by husband and wife architectural team david Marks and Julia Barfield. Having come up with the brilliant idea – the mammoth task involved 1,700 people in 5 countries, perhaps the biggest technical challenge was getting the 640-tonne structure from horizontal to vertical position.
Eventually – it was carried by barges along the Thames (with only metres to spare under Southwark Bridge) and raised by the world’s tallest floating cranes. It has 32 capsules – one for each London Borough – each capable of holding 25 people. Private parties and ‘champagne flights’ are popular and it also hosts weddings and Civil partnerships. Larger wheels are planned in Shanghai,Las Vegas and berlin, and Kuala Lumper has already unveiled a half-size version, the eye’s architects have the satisfaction that they flew first.