Rendering shows an intersecting-ring, dual-track, spokeless Ferris wheel sitting on top of a multistory structure.
(Rendering courtesy of Flying Architecture/UNStudio)

By David Jen

A new take on an old design will see a spokeless Ferris wheel built in the Pyeonghwa (Peace) Park within Seoul’s World Cup Park in Sangam-dong.

Designed by global design firm UNStudio — in collaboration with Arup and Heerim Architects & Planners — the 180 m high structure will feature 64 cars traveling on tracks embedded in two intersecting loops. One track will travel along the inside of its loop while the other travels along the outside. Each car will carry up to 25 people, bringing the ride’s total capacity to more than 1,400 people, nearly double the London Eye’s capacity, according to press material from UNStudio.

“The UNStudio team focused on the concept of unity as a symbol for the design,” writes the firm in a recent press release. “The wheel is inspired by the Honcheonsigye, an astronomical clock that represents the movement of celestial objects through time.”

In addition to the symbolism, the interlocking-ring design also contributes to the structure’s seismic and wind safety advantages, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Government. It will be the world’s first intersecting-ring Ferris wheel.

Rendering shows an intersecting-ring, dual-track, spokeless Ferris wheel in the background. In the foreground, people walk through a park and lounge on the grass in the park.  
(Rendering courtesy of MIR/UNStudio)

Tentatively named Seoul Twin Eye, the wheel will rest on a new 40 m high cultural complex expected to comprise exhibition space and a performance hall totaling about 13,100 sq m, as well as retail and food and beverage outlets totaling about 7,800 sq m.

A monorail will connect the wheel to a nearby subway station, while a zip line will cater to more adventurous visitors.

Outdoors, green spaces will form a cultural facility for larger performances and will host additional restaurants and shops, according to the SMG. The nearby Nanji Pond will be upgraded to create an aquatic “serene retreat” and “world-class” fountain show.

“Located in the heart of the city, this spokeless design references Korea’s boundless ambition for innovation and spirit of progress, seamlessly blending cutting-edge technology with a timeless appreciation for stability and beauty,” says UNStudio founder and principal architect Ben van Berkel.

The original Ferris wheel, designed by structural engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., debuted at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This 80 m high observation wheel sported a total capacity of 2,160 people in 36 gondolas. The 10- to 20-minute ride offered fairgoers views of the city and Lake Michigan.

The project is part of Seoul’s “Han River with a Thousand Sunsets” vision, which aims to create a thousand attractions along the Han River for visitors and residents.

Seoul Twin Eye is in the final stage of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance’s review process. The SMG expects construction to begin next year, with completion planned for 2028.

David Jen is a freelance science journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This article first appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Civil Engineering as “Rings with a View.”