Mark 2 of Melbourne’s answer to the London Eye should finally open this year.
Plagued by mishap after mishap since the project was first conceived and the original iteration was shut back in 2009, engineers have been working on a new improved version, which should hopefully give the city the ‘Venue with a Difference’ the developers want.
Currently under construction in the city’s Docklands, the new wheel is entering a crucial stage of development. With foundation works and reconditioning of all cabins already completed, the installation of the inner and outer spokes is now finished and the completion of the rim also achieved. Work is continuing on-site and will be followed by the installation of the 21 viewing cabins.
Standing 120 metres high, the geometry of the new design will reveal ‘a star within a star.’ The Southern Star Observation Wheel will feature 21 enclosed air-conditioned glass cabins and its unique state of the art structure will also feature an extensive LED lighting display providing stunning ever-changing displays at night.
Along with the London Eye and the Singapore Flyer, the 120-metre high observation wheel is one of only three giant wheels in the world and the only one in the southern hemisphere.
Sanoyas Rides Corporation, which is undertaking all works, has engaged a worldwide group of expert engineers including Arup, Hyder Consulting, Pitt & Sherry, Robert Bird & Associates and Brown & Tomkinson.
The original Southern Star Observation Wheel was temporarily closed in January 2009, having opened two years behind schedule. At the time, the closure was reportedly blamed on an unprecedented heat wave which had cracked some of the wheel’s bracings. It was later revealed there were faults in the structure.
As a result of extensive design and technical reviews, a conclusion was reached to build a new wheel. Reconstruction began in January 2011 and was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of that year, but this and several subsequent completion date estimates were missed due to various factors.
Finally, however, things appear to be on track.
All sections of the new version are being checked with an ultrasonic machine to ensure there are no cracks in the steel and each joint is being worked on separately. A pipe cutting machine – the only one of its kind in the world – was specifically designed for the construction of the project.
- 1,736 tonnes of steel
- 7.5 kilometres of steel piping
- 12,500 square metres of paint
- Each asymmetric support column weighs 73 tonnes
- The longest column is over 70 metres in length and over 2.5 metres wide
- The inner hub and bearing weigh 77 tonnes
- The biggest crane used was a 600-tonne crane
The Southern Star will have dedicated space that can host large and small gatherings, from cocktails for 400 guests to a sit-down dinner for up to 250 people and business meetings for between 14 and 300 guests. The Star Piazza, surrounding the base of the Star, will have the capacity to host a cocktail reception for up to 1,500 people, making it one of Melbourne’s largest open-air event venues.
Southern Star Management Group said the new Southern Star would be the first significant tourism attraction to open in Melbourne for five years and, with its striking scale and innovative design, will become a vibrant addition to the Docklands landscape as well as adding further support to Melbourne’s meetings and incentives market.