Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE LONDON EYE gives spectacular views of a great city. My memories of the experience include an in-flight mini guide, a London Eye crystal and a House of Commons place card.


in-flight mini guide, designed by Marks Barfield Architects.

The husband-and-wife duo of David Marks and Julia Barfield were lead architects of the project, built as part of London’s Millennium celebration. The Eye is on the South Bank of the Thames, northeast of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.


The London Eye, as seen from the Victoria Embankment across the Thames. To its right, London County Hall.

Cantilevered toward the river on a single giant A-frame, the London Eye is not technically a ferris wheel, as the latter attraction has support on either side of its central axle. In fact, there are taller ferris wheels in the world; the High Roller in Las Vegas is 550 ft. high.

However, at 443 ft. tall, the London Eye is the tallest of the cantilevered type. Another cantilever wheel is the Orlando Eye, 400 ft. in height, opened in Florida in 2015.


The view to the north. This and other images from in-flight mini guide.

The London Eye remains the highest public viewing point in London, with exception of the 72nd-floor observation deck of The Shard opened in 2013. What’s more, as its architect Julia Barfield rightly observes, “The best thing about the Eye is the journey. It’s not like the Eiffel tower, where you get in a dark lift and come out on a platform at the top. The trip round is as important as the view.”


The view to the east.

The Eye has 32 enclosed capsules, the number chosen to represent London’s 32 boroughs. They’re numbered 1 through 33; there’s no Capsule 13. Each can accommodate 25 viewers, though our group of auto journalists was smaller, all the better to enjoy aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres during our 30-minute journey.


A capsule flight, priced from £19.97 (around $29.50), gives 30 minutes of superb London sight-seeing.

The wheel rotates at a tad less than 1 ft./second, a motion barely perceptible with a slowly evolving view. It’s said that, on a clear day, one can see 25 miles in any direction (to the west, for example, as far as Windsor Castle beyond Heathrow Airport). Our trip was in early evening, with many of London’s principal sights bathed in lights.


The view to the south.

The Eye contributes to London’s nightscape with its own bright illumination. In fact, in December 2005, it was lit in pink celebrating Britain’s first Civil Partnership performed in one of its capsules. More than 500 weddings and 5000 engagements have occurred on the Eye since its 2000 opening.


The Eye celebrates its first Civil Partnership, December 2005.

The Eye’s original owners were British Airways and the Marks Barfield family. At one point, it was part of Tussaud Group (of London wax museum fame). What with one corporate buyout and another, it’s now part of Merlin Entertainments PLC. This British company also has Legoland, Madame Tussauds and the Orlando Eye, among other attractions worldwide. In 2014, Coca-Cola signed on as a London Eye sponsor for 2015 – 2016.


The view to the west.

My principal souvenir of the London Eye goes by various names, the least elegant, a bubblegram. A product of laser technology, this crystal cube has an artful three-dimensional etching of the British Airways London Eye, as it was known at the time of my visit.

My London Eye crystal.

My London Eye crystal.

Heat of the laser causes a series of minute nodes within the material. These interconnected points have different index of refraction from the rest of the cube; thus the artful rendering.

My visit to the London Eye was part of a Land Rover press trip. A real treat was being shown around the Houses of Parliament by John M. Taylor, Member of Parliament for the constituency containing Solihull, Land Rover’s hometown.


After hors d’oeuvres and aperitifs aboard the London Eye, we supped in a House of Commons dining room. A good time was had by all. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016


  1. Grey McGown
    January 3, 2016

    Denis…great read..the guy who designed the gondolas is a marine architect, too.

    • simanaitissays
      January 3, 2016

      Neat. The capsules remind me of Coast Guard foul-weather rescue craft.

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