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Londesborough brooch

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Blackfriars Bridge (part five)

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Raising the EDF Energy London Eye
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Raising the EDF Energy London EyeThe huge wheel of the EDF Energy London Eye - the largest structure ever lifted from horizontal to vertical - was raised in stages.

While the architects and engineers had calculated and checked every element of the operation, there was inevitably still some uncertainty attached to the task. The team set about fitting the structure with sensors, to monitor its movement and progress.

Watched by London and the world's media, the rim, lying flat over the river, was strapped to the A-frame legs above it. The feet of the A-frame were fixed on hinges on 11 metre high plinths. A second, larger, temporary lifting A-frame, was fitted upright to the back of the plinths. Gradually, and with constant monitoring of the sensors in a control room, the wheel was lifted to 35 degrees. Here it was held overnight, sticking precipitously out over the river while the tests and checks were carried out.

The next day, Sunday 10th October 1999, the wheel was lifted to 65 degrees - the final angle of the A-frame legs. It was held at this position, strapped to the legs and projecting dramatically over the river, for a week while the restraining cables, each of which can hold more than 1,100 tonnes, were anchored below Jubilee Gardens.

The boarding platform and control rooms were also put in place under the wheel. Then, finally, the temporary A-frame was taken down and the wheel untethered from its legs. The wheel could now be slowly raised from 65 degrees into its final vertical position. Throughout this period, the eyes of London and the media were on the wheel - especially as this was billed as the second 'lift'. The first attempt had been dramatically stalled when a safety check showed that a temporary cable was loose. Yet despite this small setback early on in the procedure, the London Eye was successfully raised in full view of its eager audience on Sunday 17th October 1999. The Evening Standard's architectural critic, Rowan Moore, spoke for a lot of people when he admitted that his doubts about the project had been wrong. He described an impromptu festival that took place as the wheel was lifted into position: huge crowds gathered on the embankment and nearby bridges simply to look at the structure.

The new feature had an immediate impact on the city skyline; It was barely a stone's throw away from another major landmark - Big Ben - and visible from many parts of London.

Raising the EDF Energy London Eye Raising the EDF Energy London Eye

Raising the EDF Energy London Eye Raising the EDF Energy London Eye Raising the EDF Energy London Eye

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