There's a race on among the world's capital cities. The race is not for the world's cleanest city, or the city with the most oxygen, or even the most expensive city in the world. The race is getting hotter as cities all over the globe vie for the biggest one.
The competition is for the world's largest ... Ferris Wheel. Here's how the ferris wheel race has gone down to date:
1. The London "Millennium" Eye
It all started with the London Eye, designed by architects David Marks and Julia Barfield, and built to turn like the turn of the century. Since its opening in March of 2000, it has been London's largest tourist attraction and marvel of design and engineering; its 443 foot eye supported by an off-center A-frame (which, technically, keeps it out of the ferris wheel category).
Each of the 32 capsules, representing each of London's districts, holds about 25 passengers and each passenger can spin for about 30 minutes per visit. Seating is available, but you are free to roam about the cabin. There is plenty of time to see everything; rotation is so slow that people can get on and off without the Eye stopping! For a spin and a glass of champagne you can get aboard for about $115; and if you want a chocolate tasting party for a whole group, that'll set you back about $1400 per person (even though this is all about marketing!).
2. The Star of Nanchang
The size of the London Eye was not challenged until China's Star of Nanchang was completed in April of 2006, when it became the largest recorded ferris wheel in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is 525 feet high, a full 82 feet taller than the London Millennium Eye. There are 60 compartments that hold 8 people each. The Star also takes about 30 minutes to complete a full rotation. Fee: only $6.
3. The Singapore Flyer
The eye in the sky is bigger and better in Singapore. Again, insistently not a ferris wheel, except to passengers, maybe, the Singapore Flyer was designed by Dr. Kisho Kurokawa of Japan and the architectural firm DP Architects of Singapore. Inspired by its predecessor, the London Eye, as well as the Eiffel Tower, the Flyer obtains a the grandest height of the ferris wheels built to date, 541 feet!
Not a bad view, unless you have acrophobia. A 30 minute spin on the Singapore flyer is a mere $20.
4. The Dubai Wheel
Now, we get to the real horse race. Dubailand has contracted with the builders of the London Eye to build the worlds largest ferris wheel to be called the Dubai Wheel. Construction began in 2005 on a 607 foot structure, and it is scheduled to be finished in 2009. The problem is that China is planning an even larger wheel to open in 2009 (see below).
This new design undertaken by Hollandia, the specialist Dutch engineering company which built the London Eye, will enable a view of 50 kilometers, which will will give the ferris wheel 66 feet and 5 kilometers of size and scope of the current world record holder the Singapore Flyer.
Here is a model of the Dubai Wheel design:
5. The Great Wheel Of China
The Great Wheel of China was scheduled to open in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics; it has been rescheduled to open in 2009. It will be located in Chaoyang Park, the venue where beach volley ball events were played in the for the Olympic Games. And the Great Wheel of China will be, according to plans, the largest ferris wheel in the world, that is, unless Dubai changes its plans and goes to 686 feet to tower over Beijing's 684+ feet. The Great Wheel will be built by the Great Wheel Corporation, builders of the Singapore Flyer. Here are a few designs of the Great Wheel of China project:
6. The Great Wheel of Berlin
At least when the Great Wheel of Berlin started construction, it was not aiming to be the largest ferris wheel in the world, only in Europe, at 607 feet. But, I have it from some sources that plans may be changed to go for the world record. Although by the end of 2009, that record will surely be upped. At least the Berlin Wheel will probably be more friendly than the Berlin Wall was. Here is a computerized plan for the Wheel of Berlin, being built in the West City.
These ferris wheels are all starting to look alike, only one is the largest ferris wheel in the world, temporarily. Where they are going, no one know. At least Disneyworld at Orlando is showing some restraint. Planned to open in 2010, the Great Orlando Wheel is keeping its size down to 400 feet, a miniature, compared to the others. And, if you've followed the talk in Chicago, a ferris wheel was planned for the old Naval pier to span 300 feet, but rumors are it might go to 600 feet.
Whew. It's getting crazy out there in ferris wheel land, where I guess size really does matter.
Sources: Great Wheel Corporation, (via Modern Architecture & Design News), Spiegel OnLine, London Eye, Reuters India, Singapore Flyer, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, JiangXi-China, Dubailand, Khaleej Times.