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The world’s tallest moving observation tower opens for visitors

It’s billed as the world’s thinnest tall tower, as well as the world’s tallest moving observation tower.

The recently opened British Airways i360 attraction in the southern English coastal town of Brighton has also provoked plenty of response from locals and visitors alike, not all of it kind, with some likening the futuristic structure to a donut on a stick, an enormous sex toy, or a giant lamppost. Fans, on the other hand, insist it’s a fine example of cool minimalist design as well as a great advert for European design and engineering.

The “vertical cable car” stands right on the seafront, and at 162 meters (531 feet) is about the same height as the Washington Monument. On a clear day visitors who take a ride to the top can enjoy views stretching as far as 26 miles.

After paying £15 (about $19) for a ticket, you ascend the i360 in a giant glass pod that can hold up to 200 people. Daytime trips last 20 minutes, while evening rides run for 30 minutes.

The attraction, which cost £46 million (around $60 million) to build, is the work of David Marks and Julia Barfield, the husband-and-wife architect team behind the popular London Eye Ferris wheel that sits on the banks of the Thames in the center of the U.K. capital.

“People love to see a landscape from above,” Marks says on the i360‘s website. “Anyone who’s ever visited the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building or the London Eye knows that a bird’s-eye view of a famous city is a sight that never leaves you. Landmarks like these not only enhance the skyline – they celebrate the cities they belong to.”

The i360‘s passenger-carrying pod is made almost entirely of glass and weighs nearly 90 tons. Built and designed by Poma-Sigma, one of Europe’s leading cable car and ski-lift manufacturer, the pod comprises 24 hand-made glass sections and a mirror-like base – hopefully there won’t be any “melting” incidents similar to those caused by London’s similarly divisive Walkie-Talkie building in 2013.

The central tower, meanwhile, consists of 17 steel “cans” or tubes that were made in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Weighing 30 tons apiece and using 1,363 bolts, the tubes were put in place via a temporary steel frame known as a jacking tower.

Using a “jack-up” method rather than the “build-up” alternative, the team could perform much of the construction work from close to the ground. “Put simply, the build-up method would require a crane and lifting capacity to above the top level of the tower and would involve working at height in what would be very difficult conditions,” the i360 website explains. “The jacking tower is equipped with cable jacking systems attached to a 16-ton steel collar which fits over the cans and is used to lift the cans up in order for the next can to be placed underneath.”

After two years of construction work, the result is a super-modern “pod on a pole” that the general public so far appear to either love or hate. How about you? Sound off in the comments below.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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