There are so many landmarks in London, but none of them really offered a ‘birdseye’ view of the City. Hence, in 1993, a competition was formed between the “Sunday Times” together with the “Architecture Foundation” to create a new landmark in London for the Millennium.
So, David Marks and Julia Barfield, Architects, decided to design something with a viewpoint and submitted plans for a viewing wheel in the form of a bicycle wheel. They didn’t win the competition,(nobody did!) but they decided to continue with their design. They founded the “Millennium Wheel Company” and consequently, received financial backing from “British Airways” to develop the structure.
In June 1999 the building began. Sections were built by lying horizontal across the river on temporary floating and fixed pontoons. Work to lift it upright began on 9th October, and by 17th October, it was lifted up vertically for the first time using a huge floating crane.
The height of the “Eye” is 135 metres and it’s circumference is 424 metres. At the time of building it was the tallest observation wheel in the world. It weighs 2100 metric tonnes. It moves at 0.26 metres a second, a quarter of the average walking speed.
There are 32 capsules weighing 10 tonnes each, of which each one can carry 25 people (800 in all). From the top of the “Eye” viewing distance is 40 kilometres on a clear day. Each capsule has a full 360 degree viewing angle. Each rotation takes about 30 minutes.
The A-frame supports the wheel in it’s vertical position at a 65 degree angle from one side only, allowing it to be positioned over the river from the bank. It’s legs are 58 metres long, the hub is 10 metres long and has a diameter of 4.5 metres. There are 64 spoke cables and 16 rim rotation cables.
It took 16 months to build and cost £75 million but it has recuperated all the money back. Since opening it has taken over 3.5 million visitors a year.