World's thinnest tower draws critics and admirers

LONDON • It has been billed as "the world's tallest moving observation tower", a futuristic 162m-high structure that will give visitors an experience that one of its creators likened to floating in a hot-air balloon.

Combining high-tech modernism with a rather incongruous Victorian seaside vibe, the tower, British Airways i360 opened on Thursday in the English city of Brighton.

Visitors who pay the £15 (S$26) general admission fee can take a 10-minute ride up a slender steel spire in a glass pod to admire sweeping views, press reports say.

Praise for the tower has been as thin as the structure itself. The complaints include criticism about the tower's aesthetics - some have compared its shape to that of a sex toy - to accusations that it is a monumental and glorified marketing tool.

It has been variously described as a "supersized lollipop", a "bonkers, outsize flagpole", a doughnut on a stick or simply as an "iSore".

Its admirers, however, cite the tower's minimalist beauty, especially when lit at night.

Yet to many, its function trumps form, with the view from the top being heralded over the view of the tower itself.

The attraction, which cost £46.2 million to build, is the brainchild of architects David Marks and Julia Barfield, the husband-and-wife team behind the London Eye on the South Bank of the Thames.

The Eye, a towering Ferris wheel, is one of the most popular attractions in the British capital, and it has helped to revitalise the area.

The couple, who have been working on the i360 for more than 12 years, said the tower - which includes what its website calls the world's first vertical cable car - would attract 800,000 visitors annually, create jobs and help regenerate an area once occupied by a now-dilapidated pier built in 1866.

Whatever critics might say, the tower - whose 82-tonne pod can hold up to 200 people at a time - has already earned its place in the Guinness World Records as the most slender tower in the world, with a diameter of just 3.8m.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'World's thinnest tower draws critics and admirers'. Print Edition | Subscribe