Essential Architecture-  London

The London Eye also known as the Millennium Wheel


David Marks, Julia Barfield, Malcolm Cook, Mark Sparrowhawk, Steven Chilton, and Nic Bailey


on the South Bank of the River Thames in Lambeth, London, England, between Westminster and Hungerford Bridges.




High-Tech Modern


135 metres (443 feet) high


observation wheel
  The London Eye at twilight
The British Airways London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, opened in 1999 (Coordinates: 51°30′12″N, 00°07′11″W). It is the largest observation wheel in the world (a type of Ferris wheel). It stands 135 metres (443 feet) high on the western end of Jubilee Gardens, on the South Bank of the River Thames in Lambeth, London, England, between Westminster and Hungerford Bridges. It is adjacent to London's County Hall, and stands opposite the offices of the Ministry of Defence.

Designed by architects David Marks, Julia Barfield, Malcolm Cook, Mark Sparrowhawk, Steven Chilton, and Nic Bailey, the wheel carries 32 sealed and air conditioned passenger capsules attached to its external circumference. It rotates at a rate of 0.26 metres per second or 0.85 feet per second (about 0.9 km/h or 0.5 mph) so that one revolution takes about 30 minutes to complete. The wheel does not usually stop to take on passengers; the rotation rate is so slow that passengers can easily walk on and off the moving capsules at ground level. It is, however, stopped on occasion to allow disabled or elderly passengers time to disembark safely.

Structurally, the rim of the Eye is supported by tie rods and resembles a huge spoked bicycle wheel, and was depicted as such in a poster advertising a charity cycle race. The wheel is not the first in London; a much smaller ferris wheel used to stand opposite Earls Court station during the later part of the 19th century.

The wheel was constructed in sections which were floated up the Thames on barges and assembled lying flat on pontoons. Once the wheel was complete it was raised into its upright position by cranes, initially being lifted at a rate of about 2 degrees per hour until it reached 65 degrees. It was left in that position for a week while engineers prepared for the second phase of the lift. The total weight of steel in the Eye is 1,700 tonnes.

The Eye was opened by British Prime Minister Tony Blair on 31 December 1999, although it was not opened to the public until March 2000 because of technical problems. Since its opening, the Eye, operated by Tussauds Group but sponsored by British Airways, has become a major landmark and tourist attraction. Recently, The London Eye was voted the world's best tourist attraction in a poll commissioned by the snack company Pringles.

The Eye enjoyed a warmer reception from the British public upon its opening than London's other significant Millennium project, the Dome, although the delay in opening had caused some press scepticism. By July 2002 around 8.5 million people had "flown" the Eye. It originally had planning permission only for five years, but at that time Lambeth Council agreed to plans to make the attraction permanent.

Although the Eye is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest observation wheel in the world, it is unlikely to keep that title for long. Plans have been announced to build a 170 m wheel on the Las Vegas Strip and a 200 m wheel in Shanghai. (By comparison, the original Ferris wheel at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition was 75 m high).

Since 1 January 2005, the Eye has been the focal point of London's New Year celebrations, with grand, 10-minute fireworks displays taking place, involving the fireworks blasting from the eye itself.

As of 2006, Tussauds owns 100% of the Eye, with British Airways continuing its brand association with the landmark. Tussauds, British Airways and the Marks Barfield family (the lead architects) had previously owned one-third of the Eye each, with the airline also providing the original construction loans.

It was announced in 2006 that the Tussaud's Group £85 Annual Pass could also be used on the London Eye.

Financial Controversy
On 19 May 2005 there were reports of a leaked letter showing that the South Bank Centre — owners of part of the land on which the struts of the eye are located — served a notice to quit on the attraction along with a demand for an increase in rent from £65,000 per year to £2.5 million, which the operators have rejected as unaffordable.

On 25 May 2005, London mayor Ken Livingstone vowed that the landmark would remain in London. He also pledged that if the row were not resolved he would use his powers to ask the London Development Agency to issue a compulsory purchase order [2]. The land in question is a small part of the Jubilee Gardens, which was given to the SBC for £1 when the Greater London Council was broken up.

The South Bank Centre and the British Airways London Eye agreed a 25-year lease on 8 February 2006, after a judicial review over the rent row. The lease agreement meant that the South Bank Centre, a publicly-funded charity, would receive at least £500,000 a year from the attraction, the status of which is secured for the foreseeable future. Tussauds also announced that the acquisition of the entire one-third interests of British Airways of the Marks Barfield family in the Eye, as well as the outstanding debt to BA. These agreements gave Tussauds 100% ownership of the Eye and resolved a debt problem from the Eye's original construction loan from British Airways that had stood at more than £150 million by mid-2005 and had been increasing at 25% per annum.

The London Eye in film and television
It is one of the locations of Bride and Prejudice (2004)
It features as a central element in the storyline of the episode Rose in the 2005 season of Doctor Who. The London Eye is the source of the transmission of a signal by the Nestene Consciousness.
In 2005, it was used on the reality show The Amazing Race Season 7, in which teams had to go to the top of the London Eye to search for a location with the help of binoculars.
In the 2004 movie Thunderbirds, Thunderbird 2 flies through London and lands next to the London Eye.
In the 2003 spoof spy film Johnny English, there is an entire scene set in one of the eye's capsules.
Two characters from the comedy show The League of Gentlemen are seen riding it in the spin-off The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, much to the confusion of nearby tourists.
On The Simpsons, Homer and Marge Simpson rode on it in search of their children (Bart and Lisa) in "The Regina Monologues" episode.
Part of BBMak's music video "Back Here" was filmed on the wheel.
An episode of Hustle opens with a confidence scheme to sell someone the London Eye.
The movie If Only has a scene that takes place in a private capsule of the London Eye.
Wimbledon, starring Kirsten Dunst, also features a scene on the London Eye.
In an old episode of Eastenders, Jim proposed to Dot in one of the capsules of the London Eye.
The movie Agent Cody Banks 2 had a scene in a car of the London Eye.
It is one of many landmarks in the first Midnight Club video game.

Nearest rail and tube stations
National Rail

Waterloo station
London Underground

Westminster tube station (Jubilee, District, Circle lines)
Waterloo station (Waterloo & City, Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern lines)
"River Bus" services