The London Eye. Credit Paul Carstairs; The London Eye. Credit Paul Carstairs;

The London Eye, London

The London Eye: realising a UK landmark

The London Eye is the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel and has been an icon of the London skyline since opening for the millennium in 2000. With panoramic views across the city from its 32 capsules, it is the United Kingdom’s most popular paid tourist attraction with over 3.75 million visitors annually.

Arup worked with Marks Barfield Architects, who conceived the project and founded The Millennium Wheel Company, to develop the initial competition entry and later was responsible for developing the engineering concepts, tender design documentation and technical specifications to make this vision a reality.

Project Summary

135 m tall

25 personcapsules

30 minutesper rotation

Focusing on the user experience

Unlike a conventional Ferris Wheel where gondolas hang down from pivot points around the rim, The London Eye was the first wheel to use self-levelling capsules mounted on the rim to provide an unimpeded view of the capital throughout the 30 minute flight.

The 25 person capsules posed challenges as they had to remain level even as people moved around inside. We engineered the concepts for the levelling system and the control system to keep the capsules level as they revolve during the flight. Digital incline sensors detect any imbalance in the capsules and either speed-up or slow-down the capsule rotation to always keep them within 1.5 degrees of horizontal. High-reduction gearboxes provide consistent motor speeds and increased reliability for the whole stability system. 

A unique structural design

The project location on the banks of the River Thames lent itself to an innovative structural solution; supporting the wheel from one side only, allowing the wheel to hover above the river. This required an innovative forged hub and spindle arrangement to cantilever out from its supporting frame. To this day the London Eye remains the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.

We liaised with the statutory authorities regarding the complicated planning process for the site straddling a public footpath, river wall and river overhang. We also undertook tests to demonstrate the passenger boarding process and developed safety standards for the computer controlled capsule stability system. We prepared advanced concept feasibility drawings for the innovative capsule structure which showed the packaging of all major components including the electrical power feed, air-conditioning units and the control system for the capsule motors. Detailed test specifications and design criteria documents were also prepared for tender.

Global expertise

With 3.75 million annual visitors, the London Eye was the first of a series of major observation wheels that we designed, including the Singapore Flyer, Melbourne Star and Vegas High Roller.

Learn more about our structural engineering expertise

The London Eye. Credit Paul Carstairs The London Eye. Credit Paul Carstairs