The Eiffel Tower is most visually famous structure in France, perhaps in Europe, and has seen over 200 million visitors. Yet it wasn’t supposed to be permanent…
Origins of the Eiffel TowerIn 1889 France held the Universal Exhibition, a celebration of modern achievement timed to coincide with the first centenary of the French Revolution. The French government held a competition to design an “iron tower” to be erected at the entrance to the exhibition on the Champ-de-Mars, partly to create an impressive experience for visitors. One hundred and seven plans were submitted, and the winner was one by engineer and entrepreneur Gustav Eiffel, aided by architect Stephen Sauvestre and engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier.
The Eiffel TowerEiffel’s tower was to be unlike anything yet built: 300 metres tall, at that time the highest man made structure on earth, and built of a latticework of wrought iron, a material whose large scale production is now synonymous with the industrial revolution. But the design and nature of the material, making use of metal arches and trusses, meant the tower could be light and “see through”, rather than a solid block, and retain still its strength. Its construction, which began on January 26th 1887, was swift, relatively cheap and achieved with a small workforce. There were 18,038 pieces and over two million rivets.
The Tower is based on four large pillars, which form a square 125 meters along each side, before rising up and joining into a central tower. The curving nature of the pillars meant the elevators, which were themselves a relatively recent invention, had to be carefully designed. There are viewing platforms at several levels, and people can travel to the top. Parts of the great curves are actually purely aesthetic. The structure is painted (and re-painted regularly).