Architectural Engineering of Giant Observation Wheels (GOW’s)

SawTeen See
Managing Director, USA
Robert Bird Group, San Francisco

Simon Cloherty
Robert Bird Group, London

Giant Observation wheels (GOW’s), change the skyline of the cities they inhabit often becoming inextricably linked to a city’s identity on the world stage. They are also represent complex feats of engineering and financing, and have specific urban agendas underlying the motivations for their construction. As such they are particularly sensitive to the tensions between architecture and engineering.

This presentation examines the interplay between architecture and engineering in three of the largest GOW’s constructed over the past two decades, The London Eye, The Singapore Flyer and the Las Vegas High Roller. The wider development environment of each is examined with links made to the design decision frameworks that ensued for each project.

The London Eye was developed to mark the turning of the Millennium. It was a privately funded, government supported, project that was begrudgingly granted a temporary 5 year planning permit. Based largely on the success of the design, the permit was extended in perpetuity and the wheel went on to become one of the most successful tourist attractions in the world.

The Singapore Flyer was a private investment whose primary motivation was financial, it also had government support with the underlying agenda of re-invigorating a flagging tourism market in the wake of SARS.

The Las Vegas High Roller was a purely private affair aiming to draw foot traffic into retail areas off the main strip of Las Vegas.

The underlying development agendas of each of these projects informed decisions on form and cost along the way. This presentation will demonstrate the importance of considering both architecture and engineering in decision making outlining the value each can bring to a project.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation

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