Engineers That Changed The World: One idea, Two Engineers and A New Look for London…

The London Eye in all its glory!

The London Eye in all its glory!

…it took seven years to construct
…it welcomes an average of 3.5 million people per year
…it carries 800 people per ‘revolution’
…it weighs the same as 1,272 London black cabs
…it is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK

Yep, you’ve guessed it; I am talking about none other than the London Eye (formerly known as the Millennium Wheel).

When chatting to people about London, somehow the Eye always seems to crop up – everyone has heard of it, lots of people have been on it and if you haven’t you probably want to. It has changed the London skyline and opened up a whole new meaning to the word ‘sightseeing’, which is why I felt it was time to do justice to the inventors of this amazing British symbol – David Marks and Julia Barfield.

As I hope you will see throughout this blog, Marks and Barfield are a fairly sensational team, but more than that they are husband and wife. In 1989 they formed Marks Barfield Architects which as a company has created some of the world’s most amazing architecture from The Bridge of the Future in the Grand Canyon (google it, it is pretty amazing) to Liverpool’s very own Watersports Centre on Queen’s Dock for which they won Liverpool Architectural & Design Trust Award and got short-listed for the BBC’s Design Awards.

David Marks & Julia Barfield by the London Eye

David Marks & Julia Barfield by the London Eye

Believe it or not the London Eye began thanks to a competition run by the Sunday Times in 1993, when they asked people to design a landmark to celebrate the forthcoming millennium. Marks and Barfield entered the competition proposing “a huge observation wheel” that would offer a unique and unprecedented view of London. The competition turned out to be pretty unsuccessful but Marks and Barfield’s vision captured the imagination of many and so in the February of 1994 they set up the Millennium Wheel Company.

The standards they set and specifications they aimed to meet for the creation of the wheel tells you so much about the kind of visionaries Marks and Barfield are;

• to create the largest observation wheel in the world – which they did (until 2006 when China built the Star of Nanchang)
• to design a structure of wonder, beauty and pride – I certainly think they did this!
• to construct something huge in scale that was visually and physically as light as technology would allow – yet again, they can tick this box!

Liverpool Watersports Centre on Queen's Dock

Liverpool Watersports Centre on Queen’s Dock

I am sure at the time they were told their idea was crazy, impossible and completely unrealistic but 14 years later it looks like they may have created a British institution that will last forever. The London Eye is one amongst many amazing contributions Marks and Barfield have made to not only Britain but the World! So whether you’ve realised or not, it is highly likely you have come across one of their exceptional creations.

So what’s the point of all this…

I guess there a couple of key points I hope you can take away from this. The first one being that every great invention starts with an idea; no matter how crazy your idea, if you have passion and self-belief then pursue it.

The second being the hundreds of career options that the UK has to offer you in the field of engineering and manufacturing. Marks and Barfield are incredibly talented architectural engineers but if you did a bit more digging around the construction of the London Eye then you will see there were also mechanical engineering jobs, civil engineering jobs, aerospace engineering jobs, electrical engineering jobs and many many more engineering roles involved in this project.

Last week I read an article on the BBC that revealed the British manufacturing and engineering industry in the UK is suffering from a skills shortage in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, English and Maths). I find this amazing considering the career routes that studying these subjects offer – jobs that can quite literally change the very
world you live in.

Just take a moment to think about what you want out of life and out of a career, do you fancy…

…being the fashion engineer behind the next England football kit?
…the aerospace engineer that has helped build the first ever spacecraft to take people to Mars?
… or the food technician behind Cadbury’s next invention?

london eye meme

I know if I had my time again I would maybe do a bit more research into my career options -if only I knew concentrating a bit more in Science might have meant I could be in a lab right now experimenting with chocolate!

If you fancy yourself as the next engineering icon then check out or follow AIM on Facebook & Twitter.

Emily Martin – 603777

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