Architectural practice Kay Elliott, as Architect and Lead Consultant, has designed a spectacular pre-show and 4D cinema exhibition space for The Merlin Entertainments London Eye (London Eye), as part of a £17.5m upgrade programme for the attraction.
Towering above the River Thames, The Merlin Entertainments London Eye has become an instantly recognisable and iconic landmark of the capital’s skyline.
Standing adjacent to the grade II* listed County Hall, it is the UK’s most popular paid for tourist attraction, and has welcomed over 34 million visitors since it opened in 2000.
The challenge set by Merlin senior management to the London Eye team was to find ways to enhance the visitor experience as the attraction approaches its 10th anniversary year. Working closely with both the London Eye and Merlin Studios team Kay Elliott helped identify a semi-redundant back-of-house store and office space inside County Hall and adjacent to the previous ticket hall, which could be opened to the public to house a pre-show.
The contemporary cinema sits comfortably within the existing rotunda building echoing its shape and, with the tiers sharply falling away, a dramatic space is formed. Working with a leading edge 4D film team from Centre Screen Productions it also employs some of the most sophisticated 4D sensory effects equipment anywhere in the world. The 4 minute bespoke pre-show film itself shows not only a virtual flight over the capital using unique aerial footage, but also puts visitors in the centre of exciting London Eye events including the capital’s amazing New Year’s Eve fireworks. The theme of the film, and construction of the theatre not only maximises the space available but adds an exciting new dimension to the attraction.
The design work, which also involved upgrading and improving ticket handling and visitor flow for ‘flight’ check-in, showcasing The Merlin Entertainments London Eye contemporary new visual identity. In doing this, the team made full use of Kay Elliott’s extensive experience of working in sensitive buildings and tight envelopes to develop a high quality product.
The London Eye 4Dcinema experience opened to the public in early August 2009.
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