‘We really cannot afford missing things out’
Mirsad Baručić BSc Eur-Ing., Project Manager at KCI the engineers, is closely involved in the Design, Engineering and Construction of the largest observation wheel in the world, the Dubai Eye (Ain Dubai). A project of unprecedented size and complexity, he says.
"I started at KCI in 2006, immediately after my graduation. One of the first projects I worked on was commissioned by what was then called ‘The Great Wheel Corporation’, known for its observation wheel in London (London Eye). They asked us to work out a number of concepts for new wheels for them, and one of these concepts was the Dubai Wheel. Although this wheel was meant for another part of Dubai, it served as a blueprint all the same. The ‘observation wheels’ market became quiet for a while after that, until in 2013 KCI was requested to perform a concept design for what is to become the world’s biggest observation wheel, the Dubai Eye (renamed to Ain Dubai).
Today we are working on the installation engineering and supporting of the erection of the wheel which is being constructed on the Bluewaters Island in Dubai. In fact, we have been involved in this project from the first screw on - from concept, basic and detailed design to installation and erection design and engineering, including installation and fabrication support on site. In that respect I believe that our experience and expertise in the Observation Wheels market is unmatched!”
"An Observation Wheel is actually a circular steel structure which is held together by cables. Compare it to the spokes of a bicycle wheel: each cable must be exactly the same length and must be based on exactly the same tension in order to get a perfect round wheel that stays centered. The Dubai Eye, the largest observation wheel in the world with a diameter of more than 200 meters, has proven to be a huge challenge for us from day one! As engineers, we often could not fall back on the default standards for design, materials, dimensions, calculation methods and such, because these do not cover a structure of this size and complexity. So we have to figure out on scientific level how to approach and solve complex issues in order to provide a safe and reliable design. We really cannot afford missing things out!"
"The actual erection of the wheel is the most critical phase, because you also have to consider the method. We had to take into account all kinds of temporary steel structures, weighing almost the same as the permanent structure, just to be able to construct it, ensuring at the same time that the total structure would not be too heavy and fail under its own weight... One would think steel is strong and this should be no problem. But this thing is so huge: if you would make a scale model of it, you would have to use spaghetti. Just imagine: if you squeeze a little too hard somewhere, your spaghetti is quite easily broken."
"The design for the wheel and method for installing it is now ready, and the construction and erection phase of the wheel itself is now ongoing. I expect it will take at least two years before we can take a trip in this giant. Actually, this phase is technically the most challenging. And then there’s also the phase of commissioning: There are numerous systems integrated in the wheel which all need to be interfaced and tested. Capsules, LED lighting on the wheel, drive system, you name it and everything is designed and executed double so that safety is always guaranteed!”
“Just image the view from the closed capsules at 200+ meters height, equipped with every conceivable luxury, overseeing the Palm Islands and Dubai Marina, this will eventually be absolutely spectacular!"