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Eiffel Tower, FRA
The Eiffel Tower is one of the few monuments in the world that can define an entire culture. Give credit to the French for their progressive aesthetic tastes and skilled engineers and architects! Originally built as the main entrance arch for the World’s Fair in 1889, the tower has survived the ultimate test of time and still stands as the premiere example of architectural iron art.
The Eiffel Tower is named after its creator, Gustave Eiffel, who designed it as the entrance arch for the World’s fair in 1889 celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. It was built between 1887 and 1889, with the opening ceremony on March 31, 1889.
As an architectural achievement, the Eiffel Tower is the quintessential example of early architectural iron works. The first such achievement to mix engineering with art was at the Shropshire bridge over a century earlier in 1779. Since that time, the idea of using pre-fabricated iron parts to form a greater whole had taken leaps and bounds. The Eiffel Tower had 18,038 iron parts, most of which were repetitive elements with heavy ornamentation. Holding it all together was about 2.5 million rivets ’hot pressed’ in the old style or riveting. Considering that the tower has no floors and only two platforms between the ground and the summit, the risk to the construction workers was extremely high. Despite this, Eiffel took great precautions by providing multiple stagings that could be moved around, guardrails, and safety nets. Throughout the two years of construction only one man died from falling (compare it to 11 deaths for the Golden Gate Bridge almost 50 years later). The installation of Otis Elevator lifts completed the tower’s functionality at the time and allowed patrons to visit the top without serious hardship.
At the time of its construction, the Eiffel Tower was not designed for its current 130-year existence. In fact, Eiffel only managed to obtain a 20-year permit for his tower. Throughout the early years after the World’s Fair, there was much debate as to what to do with the tower. Early radio experimenters managed to make the first long-distance radio message from the top of it. However, expensive maintenance costs including a new coat of paint every 7 years put a lot of pressure on the city. In 1925, the famous con artist, Victor Lustig, used this to his advantage when he conned a scrap metal company to ’purchase’ the tower.
Despite the city’s financial problems at the time, the Eiffel Tower was never dismantled and managed to survive long enough to see the city reach new heights of prosperity. In 1925, it was used as a large billboard for Citroen Automobile Company to advertise in an attempt to recoup maintenance costs. By 1959, a permanent radio antenna was added to the top, forever securing its place as both a functional element of the city and its premiere tourist destination.
Today, the Eiffel Tower still stands prominently in the Paris skyline. As an older city that has seen extensive development over the course of many centuries, there was simply no room to build tall skyscrapers like North American cities in the skyscraper era. At the top of the tower you can glimpse the entire Parisian landscape at once, including a majestic view down the Champs de Mars.
As previously mentioned, the tower receives a new coat of paint every 7 years. It is currently colored a shade of brown. Polling stations at the foot of the tower allow visitors and local residents to vote on the next color of paint.
Recent improvements for the millennium celebrations in Paris include hundreds of flashing lights and several high-power arc lights that dominate this, the City of Lights. At night, visitors and residents enjoy daily light shows that illuminate the entire structure in beautiful hues.
While the Eiffel Tower has spawned a number of copycats throughout the world—most notably the Tokyo Tower—none can claim its rich history or beautiful location amidst the master-planned public spaces of Paris. No trip to this glorious French city is complete without visiting the Eiffel Tower!