The history of the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel tower or La tour Eiffel is a 7,300 tonne iron representation of the heart of Paris, the most renowned and celebrated symbol of the city of love. It’s a 130 year old cast member of hundreds if not thousands of films, the leading subject of millions of photographs and the central figure starring in hundreds of millions of memories.

The Eiffel Tower, situated in the 7th arrondissement of Paris is the most visited paid-for monument in the world welcoming 7 million visitors every year. However, its original purpose before and after construction was meant to be a temporary installation as an entrance arch for the 1889 Worlds fair or Exposition Universelle that Paris would be hosting, coincidently on the same date that signalled the 100th anniversary of the French revolution.

Naturally, this was an important date with a very high profile project so a competition was launched with artists from all over France applying with plans for this structure as the entrance to the fair that would be located on the Champ-de-Mars (a public green area in central Paris by the River Seine).

The proposed synopsis was to build ‘an iron tower on the Champ-de-Mars with a square base, 125 metres across and 300 metres tall’ with Gustave Eiffel and his company, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier (engineers) and Stephen Sauvestre (an architect) having their proposed design accepted. Looking at some of the other proposed designs in comparison to what stands tall now it’s interesting to see that the most simplistic design was chosen yet it’s so intricate in it’s creative mathematical precision. The curvature of the tower is determined to offer the most dynamic wind resistance and is explained by Gustave Eiffel as: “All the cutting force of the wind passes into the interior of the leading edge uprights. Lines drawn tangential to each upright with the point of each tangent at the same height, will always intersect at a second point, which is exactly the point through which passes the flow resultant from the action of the wind on that part of the tower support situated above the two points in question. Before coming together at the high pinnacle, the uprights appear to burst out of the ground, and in a way to be shaped by the action of the wind”. Gustave Eiffel was a highly accomplished architect and also helped design the Statue of Liberty before landing the role of building the Eiffel Tower.

The first days of work began in January 1887 and by the 31st March 1889 the Eiffel Tower was complete in a record time of 2 years and 2 months. The original height of the tower was 300 metres (985 feet) and it proudly stood as the tallest structure in the world for 41 years until the completion of the Chrysler building in New York in 1930 at 1046 feet. Only a year after this the Empire State Building became the tallest building at 1454 feet. However, in 1957 an antenna was added to the Eiffel Tower that consequently increased the height by 67 feet finally making it 6 feet taller than the Chrysler building. The height of the tower to this day can change as cold weather can shrink the tower by up to 6 inches! It is also designed to resist extreme winds and sways up to 4.5 inches courtesy of Gustave Eiffel’s expertise in aerodynamics. 

The physical structure consists of three floors with the towers apex decidedly the perfect spot for a telegraphy antenna which during WW1 the wireless telegraph transmitter helped to jam German communication. The first includes an observation area, art gallery, a restaurant and transparent floor with a recpetion room dedicated to Gustave Eiffel. The second floor is at 379 feet features a second observation area and Le Jules Verne restaurant.  The third and final floor has panoramic views at 905 feet with a champagne bar.

From the ground you can see the names of 72 engineers, mathematicians and scientists engraved on the side of the tower all of which contributed to the construction of one of the single most recognisable pieces of architecture in the world.

One of the most famous aspects of the Eiffel Tower are the 20,000 twinkling lightbulbs that light up the tower and sparkle over Paris every night.

For any of my fellow marketers one of my favourite Eiffel Tower stories is the French car manufacturer Citroen using the tower as a giant advertisement between 1925 and 1934 with their company name emblazoned on the tower using 250,000 light bulbs. It is documented as the world’s biggest advertisement by the Guinness Book of Records.

The sight of the Eiffel Tower during the day or night is not something you can forget easily,  I for one am glad that Gustave Eiffel and his team of 72 people did such an incredible job so that over a century later millions of people are able to revel in the beauty and mastery of this magnificent architectural piece.

Scout xo

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