The Eiffel Tower, a controversial metal architecture

The Eiffel Tower was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1889 in order to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution.

Eiffel Tower Seen from the gardens
Eiffel Tower Seen from the gardens

The metal tower was the result of new architectural concepts which emerged in the second half of the 19th century.

It therefore became the focus of the exhibition that attracted millions of visitors from all over the world.

Its construction began in 1887 and it was unveiled on March 31, 1889.

The Eiffel Tower is today the iconic image of Paris and part of our architectural heritage.

However, it was highly controversial and criticized at the time of its construction!

The purists indeed demanded its immediate destruction.

They argued that its silhouette ‘was polluting’ the beauty of the Parisian landscape!

The 300m high tower remained the tallest building in the world until the construction of the Empire State Building in 1931.

Condemned to a temporary existence of 20 years, it however escaped demolition because of its height.

A useful tower!

Scientific experiments carried between 1904 and 1911 indeed led to the installation of wireless communication antennas.

Construction Eiffel Tower
20 March 1888

These soon found their use during WWI when the tower was requisitioned by the army.

The tower’s career had begun!

It continued with the installation of meteorological observation instruments (French Central Weather Bureau) and an aeronautical beacon.

In 1916, it was equipped with a transmission terminal which established the first transatlantic telephone radio link.

The first broadcasts of Radio France took place in 1921 and became regular the following year.

The Eiffel Tower found a new use in 1925 when lights were installed to illuminate the Decorative Arts Exhibition which took place on the Esplanade des Invalides.

Construction Eiffel Tower
15 May 1888

The first tests of television broadcast began that same year and became regular after WWII.

The French television transmitter installed in 1957 increased its height from 300m to 320m.

The tower ‘added another string to its bow’ in 1981 when the radio transmitter of the local radio station Paris Tour Eiffel was installed on its pinnacle.

One would have thought that the Old Iron Lady would stop there!

But no, she adorned herself with a thousand lights and displayed the countdown which marked the start of the new millennium.

Born in the 19th century, it survived two world wars and the fantastic changes and scientific advances of the 20th century.

Construction Eiffel Tower
21 August 1888

It entered the 21th century with lights and glitter, as famous and prestigious as ever.

The Eiffel Tower in numbers

The Eiffel Tower is made of wrought iron, a metal flexible, durable, strong and relatively cheap.

Its base forms a square with 129.22 m side.

It has three floors which are located respectively at a height of 57.63m, 115.73m and 276.13m.

Its pinnacle peaks at 320m above ground level.

It does not sway more than 12cm by strong winds as it was built on a system of hydraulic jacks.

The corners are oriented to the four cardinal points.

The Eiffel Tower is indeed a true feat of architecture and engineering!

Construction Eiffel Tower
26 December 1888

The nearly 10.000 000kg weight is evenly spread so that it has a minimal ground pressure.

The Eiffel Tower’s size varies from about 15cm depending on temperature which affects metal density.

It takes 30 painters and 50 tonnes of paint every three years to repaint the 7000 tons of metal.

All three platforms are accessible to the public.

They boasts great view points, a panoramic restaurant, souvenir shops and a small audiovisual museum (located on the first floor) which relates its extraordinary epic welcome visitors.

Visiting Gustave Eiffel’s masterpiece

Book your tickets online to avoid hours of queues, but even though you’ll have to queue for a while.

Construction Eiffel Tower
15 Mars 1889

The Eiffel Tower indeed has some 7 million visitors each year and is close to saturation!

The bad news is that it needs to increase its revenue without attracting more visitors, so prices will increase by 50%!

Hope that won’t deter you from visiting.

So while queuing, look for a golden bust of Gustave Eiffel by Antoine Bourdelle; it’s located by the north-east pillar, next to the ticket office.

It was unveiled in 1930 in order to pay tribute to one of the most talented engineers of his time.

Directions: 7th District
Metro: Champ-de-Mars-Tour-Eiffel on Line 6 and RER C
Coordinates: Lat 48.858370 – long 2.294481

Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Construction phases:  18July1887 7Dec1887 i- 20March1888 – 15May188821Aug188826Dec188815March189 – all are in the Public Domain

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