The Eiffel Tower (1887-1889)

The Eiffel Tower, designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1887, is one of the most famous icons in the world. It’s the pride of France and has contributed significantly to French tourism.

Eiffel Tower, Paris.

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History of The Tower

Eiffel Tower, French Tour Eiffel, Parisian landmark that is also a technological masterpiece in building-construction history. When the French government was organizing the International Exposition of 1889 to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution, a competition was held for designs for a suitable monument. More than 100 plans were submitted, and the Centennial Committee accepted that of the noted bridge engineer Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel’s concept of a 300-metre (984-foot) tower built almost entirely of open-lattice wrought iron aroused amazement, skepticism, and no little opposition on aesthetic grounds. When completed, the tower served as the entrance gateway to the exposition.

Universal Exposition, Paris. Gustave Eiffel and party standing on a platform of the Eiffel Tower.

Image source: https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/80834/

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eiffel-Tower-Paris-France

The Design of the Eiffel Tower

In 1889, Paris hosted an Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) to mark the 100-year anniversary of the French Revolution. More than 100 artists submitted competing plans for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars, located in central Paris, and serve as the exposition’s entrance. The commission was granted to Eiffel et Compagnie, a consulting and construction firm owned by the acclaimed bridge builder, architect and metals expert Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. While Eiffel himself often receives full credit for the monument that bears his name, it was one of his employees—a structural engineer named Maurice Koechlin—who came up with and fine-tuned the concept. Several years earlier, the pair had collaborated on the Statue of Liberty’s metal armature.

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Eiffel reportedly rejected Koechlin’s original plan for the tower, instructing him to add more ornate flourishes. The final design called for more than 18,000 pieces of puddle iron, a type of wrought iron used in construction, and 2.5 million rivets. Several hundred workers spent two years assembling the framework of the iconic lattice tower. Initially, only the Eiffel Tower’s second-floor platform was open to the public; later, all three levels, two of which now feature restaurants, would be reachable by stairway or one of eight elevators.

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Info source: http://www.history.com/topics/eiffel-tower

Did You Know?

The base pillars of the Eiffel Tower are oriented with the four points of the compass.

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Timeline of the Eiffel Tower construction

To understand the history of the Eiffel Tower, it is important to know that its construction followed different steps. The construction itself lasted two years.

  • June 1884: The project began and the first drawings were done.
  • January 28th, 1887: The works begin.
  • April 1st, 1888: The first stage was completed.
  • August 14th, 1888: The second stage was completed.
  • March 31st, 1889: The third and final stage in which the tower was completed in its entirety ended.

The Eiffel Tower was inaugurated on March 31, 1889. Gustave Eiffel walked the 1,710 steps to the top of the Tower to place the tricolored French flag at its summit. At the time, the Tower was 312 meters high.

Info source: https://www.pariscityvision.com/en/paris/landmarks/eiffel-tower/history

A visual timeline of the tower’s construction.

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The Eiffel Tower’s Illuminations

Every evening, the Eiffel Tower is adorned with its golden covering and sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, while its beacon shines over Paris. Unveiled on the 31st December 1985, invented by Pierre Bideau, an electrician and lighting engineer, it consists of 336 projectors equipped with high-pressure, yellow-orange sodium lamps. This form of illumination, which has been met with unanimous, worldwide success, was the starting point of a nocturnal revival of monuments, in Paris as well as in the cities of France and the world.

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The beams of light, directed from the bottom towards the top, illuminate the Eiffel Tower from the inside of its structure. Since 1958, by replacing the 1,290 working projectors that illuminated the Tower from the outside, they have been highlighting the fine metallic structure of the monument and illuminating the areas used by late-night visitors until the closing of the Tower to the public. In addition to the aesthetic aspect, it is equally necessary for the security of the late-night operation of the Tower.

Info and images source: https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/the-monument/lights

The Eiffel Tower’s first light show was a giant advertisement

The tower briefly served as ad space for the car manufacturer Citroën, with 250,000 colorful bulbs and 370 miles of wiring used to write the company’s name on the Paris skyline in 1925.

A Citroën ad.

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Uses of the tower

The tower was intended as a temporary structure that was to be removed after 20 years. But as time passed, people no longer wanted to see the tower go. Gustave Eiffel was also not keen on seeing his favorite project dismantled, and so he set about making the tower an indispensable tool for the scientific community. Just days after its opening, Eiffel installed a meteorology laboratory on the third floor of the tower. He invited scientists to use the lab for their studies on everything from gravity to electricity. Ultimately, however, it was the tower’s looming height, not its laboratory, that saved it from extinction.

Image source: https://www.livescience.com/29391-eiffel-tower.html

In 1910, the city of Paris renewed Eiffel’s concession for the tower because of the structure’s usefulness as a wireless telegraph transmitter. The French military used the tower to communicate wirelessly with ships in the Atlantic Ocean and intercept enemy messages during World War I. The tower is still home to more than 120 antennas, broadcasting both radio and television signals throughout the capital city and beyond.

Image source: https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/the-monument/eiffel-tower-and-science

Info source: https://www.livescience.com/29391-eiffel-tower.html

The tower today

The Eiffel Tower is still the centerpiece of Paris’ cityscape. More than 7 million people visit this iconic tower every year, according to the attraction’s official website. Since the tower’s 1889 opening, 250 million people from around the world have enjoyed all that the Eiffel Tower has to offer. The tower’s three platforms are home to two restaurants, several buffets, a banquet hall, a champagne bar and many unique gift shops.

Info source: https://www.livescience.com/29391-eiffel-tower.html

Reconstruction of the Gustave Eiffel’s office, represented here with Thomas Edison.

Image source: https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/the-monument/eiffel-tower-and-science

Eiffel Tower dimensions

The Eiffel Tower is 300 metres (984 feet) high. It rests on a base that is 5 metres (17 feet) high, and a television antenna atop the tower gives it a total elevation of 324 metres (1,063 feet). The Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world until the topping off of the Chrysler Building in New York City in 1929.

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eiffel-Tower-Paris-France

Image source: https://www.livescience.com/29391-eiffel-tower.html

Image source: https://www.pariscityvision.com/en/paris/landmarks/eiffel-tower/history