Take a virtual tour of London and view the iconic London Eye from the comfort of the Park Plaza County Hall hotel. Located in the city centre, this immense structure has a diameter of 120 metres and stands at 135 metres tall, providing its passengers with stunning views over the city and River Thames below. The magnificence of the area is punctuated by the County Hall building that was once home to the Greater London Council, now housing various businesses and attractions such as the London Dungeon, and Sea Life Aquarium. Enjoy looking around this captivating area of Lambeth, in Central London.
The London Eye, once known as the Millennium Wheel, is situated near the South Bank of the River Thames in Lambeth. With an impressive height of 443 feet (135 metres), the Ferris wheel overtook its competitors to become the world’s tallest in 1999 – a title it held until 2006 when it was outdone by the Star of Nanchang in China. It remains one of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions and has even contributed to Ferris wheel construction being revived around the world. An admission fee is required to experience it.
What was to become known as the London Eye had its beginning as a proposed entry by David Marks and Julia Barfield of Marks Barfield Architects in an Architecture Foundation-sponsored competition hosted by The Sunday Times in 1993. No winner was chosen, but the couple chose to develop the project on their own and eventually found the site where it now stands. Funding was secured largely by British Airways, and construction began in 1998. The iconic wheel was assembled horizontally over the river Thames before being drawn into its upright position, finally completed on December 31, 1999 and opened ceremoniously by Prime Minister Tony Blair, who admitted the first paying passenger nine weeks later on March 9, 2000. Its intended five year lifespan extended when it became apparent how popular it was – and in 2006 LED lighting was added for nighttime illumination.
The hub of the wheel rests on two supports, which are anchored to a foundation on the riverbank and lean out over the river at an angle of 65° (from the horizontal). Its two supports are on the same side of the hub, so the wheel cantilevered over the river. Six backstay cables are anchoring a second foundation to hold the structure in place.
A view of the London Eye structure from St. James’s Park.
Measuring 394 feet (120 metres) in diameter and connected to its hub by 64 cables in a similar fashion to bike spokes, the London Eye is powered by rubber tyres placed on the structural base. The 32 ovoid shaped ‘capsules’, each housing 25 passengers, correspond to the number of boroughs and City of London that form Greater London. With motorized mounts ensuring the capsules remain upright, it rotates at a slow two revolutions an hour so boarding and disembarking can be done without having to stop – with exception of those with disabilities.
The London Eye was originally owned by British Airways, Marks Barfield, and Tussauds Group. In 2006, Tussauds became the sole owner. The following year, Tussauds was acquired by the Blackstone Group, which merged the London Eye with Merlin Entertainments.