Berlin sets the wheel in motion

12th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

Berlin's new giant wheel is to be Europe's biggest, and the German capital's most spectacular skyline attraction, when it begins revolving at the end of 2009.

The Berlin project is the brainchild of a company appropriately called the Great
Wheel Corporation. Its estimated cost is 120 millon euros (175 million dollars). Great Wheel Corporation boss, Florian Bollen, calculates it will attract millions of people every year, with up to 30,000 guests enjoying the 35-minute ride daily during peak holiday periods. When complete it will ferry 40 people in each of its 36 pods to a height of 185 metres over the city near its famous zoo.

The wheel's "departure terminal" is to be built on a site between Berlin's
Technical University and the city zoo near the railway station of the same name.
Designed by a young group of Berlin architects, its steel roof recalls an image of wild sea waves.

The giant wheel might even lure even more animal lovers to the Berlin zoo, which is already enjoying a record number of visitors who come to see its famous polar bear, Knut.

The internationally famous bear - rejected by his mother at birth - celebrated his first birthday on December 5 by devouring a specially made cake in front of hundreds of zoo onlookers and hordes of press photographers.

“New symbol”

Berlin's governing mayor Klaus Wowereit, at a recent ground-breaking ceremony, was all smiles when claiming that the wheel would be a "new symbol" for the city.

"One enabling people to see Berlin from every corner of the city," he said.
Company chief Bollen agrees, saying the wheel will not only serve as a "window on Berlin," but will also help boost the city's down-town western districts.

After Berlin's reunification, the western Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf districts stagnated as investment poured into the eastern half of the capital and the central Berlin Mitte district, formerly on the communist side of the Berlin Wall.

A model for the Berlin Wheel is the 135-metre-high London Eye - also known as the Millennium Wheel, which has 32 passenger pods.

Originally, it was planned that the London Eye, on the South Bank of the River
Thames near Westminster, would remain in place for just five years before being dismantled.

Eight years later the wheel remains in place, having proved a successful tourist attraction, attracting up to 4 million passengers annually.

“Negative impact”

Mayor Wowereit hopes Berlin's wheel will do for the city what the Eye has done for London, and what the Eiffel Tower has also done for Paris.

"That's the beauty of it. It will be public and accessible, and in a great city position," a city official said.

Not everyone, however, is excited about the venture. Some of the city's animal lovers fear the wheel's long shadow could have a "negative impact" on the mating and sleeping habits of the rhinos in the nearby zoo.

More than three million people visit the Berlin Zoo every year. "Far from luring more people," said a regular zoo visitor, "the wheel may well have a detrimental affect on attendances.

"If they've seen the zoo animals from above, they may ask why should they pay another entrance fee to see them again at ground level," he said.

Modest in size

Berlin's mixed assortment of lower-level architecture has not in the past provided the city with a particularly notable skyline.

Even on the reinvented Potsdamer Platz, newly-designed buildings are modest in size compared to those in New York, Paris or London.

Up to now, visitors to Berlin have relied on the limited capacity of the
"telecafe" in the 207-metre-high Alexander Platz TV tower and on a viewing platform atop the city's 50 metre-high Victory Column when for gaining a bird's eye view of the city.

"With the Giant Wheel, visitors will now be offered the chance of seeing the city from quite another perspective," Wowereit says enthusiastically.

Giant wheels have sprouted in a host of major cities in recent years - six of them in China alone. Currently the world's largest wheel, 208 metres tall, is to be found in Beijing.

12th December 2007

DPA with Expatica

Subject: German news, Berlin, wheel

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