One of London’s most popular architectural icons, The London Eye, celebrates its tenth birthday this week!
It was officially opened on 31st December 1999 by then-prime minister Tony Blair, but face technically difficulties meaning it couldn’t open fully to the public until March 2000. Ten years on and over 30-million people have taken the breath-taking ride to view the capital from above. It was the worlds largest Ferris wheel until two years ago, when the Singapore Flyer took its crown by being 30 metres taller.
When it was first unveiled it did have a rather rocky start, aside from the technical problems delaying its full opening by three months. Many didn’t understand the concept of a Ferris wheel, viewed as old fashioned and too much of an expensive folly. But the modern interpretation of a Victorian Ferris wheel has become an engineering wonder and as popular a tourist and business entertainment tradition as Big Ben or the Tower of London.
It was designed by husband and wife architecture firm Marks Barfield, once the design was unveiled all doubts of a silly, old fashion and ginormous version of some rickety fairground ride were vanquished completely. The couple had created a modern, high tech answer to the traditional Ferris wheel. “It was London at your feet, symbol to celebrate the millennium, representing the time turning and the turn of the century, a very delicate object on the skyline of a rectilinear city, overhanging the river,” said Mr Marks, of Marks Barfield.
The drama of the construction of the wheel gripped the capital, and the rest of the world. Boats would often be seen bringing parts of the wheels, such as the passenger pods and we all sat on the edges of our seats as the wheel itself was raised skyward on the South Bank.
Interestingly the planning permission for the wheel was meant to expire in 2005, as it was supposed to be just temporary. However due to the popularity of the wheel with both tourists and Londoners themselves, an application was made and accepted to keep it until 2025.
The London Eye is really popular with tourists understandably but also serves an excellent purpose to the businesses of London. As well as being a brilliant general talking point to visiting clients from outside London its the perfect location to entertain clients visiting your offices.