The Eiffel Tower: What You Need to Know
There are few people in the world who wouldn’t recognize the Eiffel Tower with its tall metallic frame and unique, spear-like shape. With all the monumental architecture found all throughout the world, there is not another building or structure that has the same look or even a similar look to the Eiffel Tower. Because we are so familiar with the appearance of the Eiffel Tower, we often forget it’s individuality and take its design for granted. Upon closer inspection of its mighty metalwork, one might find themselves interested in the origins of the Eiffel tower, why it looks so different from other buildings, and why it is such an icon of Paris and even France itself.
The Tower’s construction began in 1887. During this time, the world had never seen any structure quite like what the Eiffel Tower would become. In fact, during this time period, the popular architectural movement was Neoclassical. This movement was all about going back to the roots of the ancient Romans and Greeks and drawing from their fluted columns, grand staircases, and impressive domes. The Eiffel Tower certainly didn’t have any of these typical Neoclassical characteristics. Why was it so different? Why did it decide to go against the grain of the popular architectural design of its time? Perhaps we should begin with the Tower’s architects.
The Eiffel Tower required several architects and engineers working together to come to fruition. Emile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin were the two engineers that came up with the idea of building a huge metal tower. They worked for the Eiffel Company, named after the entrepreneur Gustave Eiffel, and this obviously is the origin of the great Tower’s name. The engineers decided they wanted to have their structure tower above 1,000 feet, made all of iron supports and pylons (“Origins and Construction of the Eiffel Tower”).
The Eiffel Tower
An architect, Stephen Sauvestre, was also hired to work on the Tower in order to make the structure more visually appealing to the public. However, the Parisian public at the time certainly was not looking forward to such a unique structure as is evidenced by a written work from 1887 known as the “Protest against the Tower of Monsieur Eiffel.” The following is an excerpt from this work:
“Is the City of Paris any longer to associate itself with the baroque and mercantile fancies of a builder of machines, thereby making itself irreparably ugly and bringing dishonour ? (…). To comprehend what we are arguing one only needs to imagine for a moment a tower of ridiculous vertiginous height dominating Paris, just like a gigantic black factory chimney, its barbarous mass overwhelming and humiliating all our monuments and belittling our works of architecture, which will just disappear before this stupefying folly.” (“Origins and Construction of the Eiffel Tower”).
Despite how horrifyingly ugly many Parisians believed this tower to be, construction continued and the Eiffel Tower was finished in 1889. The year in which it was finished was quite significant for the French people because it marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. That year, the World Fair, or Exposition Universelle, was held. Despite the many diatribes against the Eiffel Tower, completed in an amazingly speedy 2 years and 2 months, many of its protesters quieted down and the Tower was soon considered an architectural marvel (“Origins and Construction of the Eiffel Tower”). The completed Tower weighed a massive 7,300 tons of iron, with another 60 tons of paint on top of that, and despite its massive weight, thanks to its remarkably streamlined design, it remains incredibly wind-resistant.
After its construction, the world was enthralled by the Eiffel Tower’s distinct metalic frame and design. It did not follow in the footsteps of Neoclassical, Neo-gothic, nor Neo-baroque architecture. It instead was far more modern and industrial. Soon, many other cities and countries started building their own metal structures such as Lisbon’s Santa Justa elevator or the Gare d’Orsay. Still, the structure remains one of the best known industrial-style structures of its kind. Though it was once shunned as being an eyesore that had no business sitting in the heart of Paris, it persists today as an iconic monument of Paris and France itself.
(N.d.) “Origins and Construction of the Eiffel Tower.” TourEiffel. Retrieved from https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/the-monument/history.