Has bdp reinvented the wheel, or is it set to copy the ba London Eye? Nobody, apart from Mr Ferris, can lay claim to the concept of a big wheel. It has, after all, been a staple of funfairs and pleasure parks for generations. The question is whether the wheel (or wheels) which bdp is designing for Disney is an imitation of David Marks Julia Barfield Architect's unique design. bdp thinks it isn't, on the basis that the engineering is 'fundamentally' different. Marks Barfield argues that it can be considered a copy if it duplicates specific aspects of its own design - notably the motorised stability systems and the fact that the capsules are suspended only on one side.
If necessary, Marks Barfield is prepared to go to court to argue that it has intellectual copyright of these particular innovations. It may well succeed, but it is unlikely that it will stop the wheels from being built. BDP will, presumably, tweak the design to whatever extent is needed to satisfy the courts, and press on. If it does have second thoughts about the commission, another architect will surely take its place - few would turn down the chance to establish a working relationship with a client as wealthy and as powerful as Disney.
Yet David Marks and Julia Barfield claim to have done just that, rejecting an advance from Disney on the basis that they are not interested in churning out multiple copies of their design. Given that delivering a second - or third or fourth - wheel would be infinitely less arduous and more lucrative than delivering the first, their stance is clearly idealistic, grounded in a genuine belief that the existence of replicas would undermine the status of the original as a symbol of modern London. Corporate clients are unlikely to appreciate the argument, and while big wheels prove to be profitable, they will continue to be built. But is it really such acatastrophe if other locations have a structure which is broadly similar to London's? Numerous great cities boast a grand bridge, or a Classical civic square, or a truly magnificent cathedral. Now, thanks to Marks Barfield's vision in elevating the wheel from funfair ride to city landmark, it looks as though many cities may soon be blessed with a big wheel.