A Short Recap To The History Of Eiffel Tower
Updated: Jan 4
One of the seven wonders of the world and a historical monument of Paris, France is the Eiffel Tower which is one of the most loved tourist spots and is a splendid amalgamation of technology and architecture from the l9th century. It was the world’s tallest structure till the year 1930 when Chrysler Building was built in New York and the construction cost at that time was 7,799,401.31 French gold francs or about $1.5 million.
This tower is 1,063 feet tall including its antenna at the top and without the antenna, it is about 984 feet high. The first platform of the Eiffel Tower is 190 feet above the ground, the second is 376 feet above and the third platform is almost 900 feet above. It weighs around 10,000 tons and has about 5 billion lights on it. There are 108 stories in the Eiffel Tower with 1710 steps, but for visitors, the stairs are open until the first platform only, along with including two elevators. The Eiffel Tower is an engineering and architectural marvel that is one of its kind and the French call it ‘La Dame De Fer’, ‘the iron lady’.
It was for the International Exposition of 1889 which was to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution that the French Government held a competition for designs to build a suitable monument. Out of more than 100 plans that were submitted to the Centennial Committee, Gustave Eiffel’s concept of a 300-meter tower was accepted. The Eiffel’s company’s design won the competition, and the construction of the wrought-iron tower was initiated in July 1887.
While the tower is in the name of French Civil Engineer Gustave Eiffel, the original concept of the tower came from his firm’s two chief-engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier. It was these two men who came up with the original drawings for the monument. Eiffel, together with these two and a French architect Stephen Sauvestre, submitted their plan to a contest which later went on to become the centerpiece for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.
While the Eiffel Tower appears to be unique to each one of us it was not the same during the 19th century. Though modern architecture was coming up slowly in Paris before this tower, it was not accepted openly. The concept of Iron being used was the new popular then but only for usage as a building material due to the Industrial Revolution that went on to become the foundation of modern architecture. In 1887, iron was mostly used internally for support structures or less important buildings like factories, bridges, and hothouses. To bring about the aesthetics with the new material was one of the biggest problems of that time. But with Eiffel Tower, the old and repeated historic structures were left behind. The complete turn in using the new material was adopted for Eiffel Tower and there came a new structure in appearance which was completely new and modern.
On completion, the tower served as the entrance gateway to the exposition but had to face skepticism and opposition. When the construction was started on the Champs de Mars, there was a group of 300 artists, writers, sculptors, and architects that put across a petition to the commissioner of the Paris Exposition for halting the construction terming it as ‘ridiculous tower’ which would dominate Paris like a ‘gigantic black smokestack’. But to heaven’s luck, the protests from the Paris’ artistic community were overheard and the construction was continued. In the beginning, this tower was the ‘ugliest building in Paris’ which later went on to be the symbol of the city.
Construction and Architecture:
Foundation work was started on January 28, 1887. The open-lattice iron material structure is made up of four huge arched legs that are set on masonry piers which curve inwards until they converge in a single tower that is tapering. Each of the four legs lays on the four concrete slabs each having 6 mm thickness that require foundations of up to 22 m in depth. By using bolts (10 centimeters in diameter and 7.5 meters in length) the iron base of the tower was connected to the stonework. To build this tower a total of 18,000 pieces were used which were fixed by two and a half million thermally assembled rivets. It was in Eiffel’s factory in Paris that every piece was specifically made and manufactured for the project. There was a total of 7,300 tons of iron used for building this project. Every inch of the structure was painted to protect the tower from elements and a total of 60 tons of paint was required for this purpose. Since then, the tower has been repainted 18 times.
One of the most dominant elements of this tower was the system of elevators used. The glass-cage machines approved by Eiffel were developed by a company named Otis Elevator Company in America, as none of the French companies could meet up the technical expectations specified for the Eiffel.
Surprisingly, the entire building project of the Eiffel Tower was finished in less than 2 years and 7 weeks and was opened to public visit on May 15, 1889. While a total of 300 workers were employed on-site, there was only one health and safety death caused due to the strict safety measures and precautions followed under Eiffel’s guidance.
History and Expansion:
Initially, when the tower was constructed it was intended to be a temporary structure which was to be dismantled after 20 years, but as time passed people did not want it to go, and now remains as one of the hottest tourist attractions across the globe. While after the success of the tower during and after the World Exhibition many of the former protestors made public apologies. Apart from the supportive people, Gustave Eiffel too did not want his favorite project being removed and so he went on to make that tower an indispensable tool for the scientific community. Few days after its opening, a meteorology lab was installed on the third floor and Eiffel invited scientists to use that lab for their studies on matters related from electricity to gravity. But it was the tower’s height and architecture that saved it from being dismantled.
Later in the year 1910, Eiffel’s concession for the tower was renewed by Paris seeing the usefulness of the structure for being a wireless telegraph transmitter. It was used to communicate effectively through wireless technology with the ships in the Atlantic Ocean by the French military to intercept messages during World War I. The tower still holds more than 120 antennas which broadcast both television and radio signals throughout Paris and beyond.
While we see the glory and the work put into building this great iron monument, it did face a lot of hurdles, opposition, and severe enemies trying to rupture it from its foundation unaware of its architecture.
When the contract was won for building the tower, Gustave Eiffel found that the Exposition Committee was only ready to contribute about 25% of the finance required to build it completely and the rest from his pocket. Instead of being demotivated, he changed the game in his favor by agreeing to pitch in money for the remaining 75% provided he was given complete control over the development of the tower along with having its profit for about twenty years. His offer was accepted by the committee and Eiffel made a huge fortune out of it.
Later in the year 1964, the Eiffel Tower was officially regarded as a historical monument by the Minister of Cultural Affairs Malraux and holds its place among one of the seven wonders of the World.
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