Sitting in the heart of France’s capital Paris, the Eiffel Tower is a metal structure that is known the world over for its mammoth size
and for being a monument to dreamers and lovers. The structure has become a defining part of the city, which is no small part due to its prime location. The Eiffel Tower has come to mean a lot to the local Parisians, and that is because of its deep history and meaning. Let’s dive a little deeper into the background of this structure to see what makes it so iconic.
A Brief Introduction to Gustave Eiffel
The great engineer and architect under whose supervision the Eiffel Tower was constructed happened to have a rich history of his own. Alexander Gustave Eiffel was born on December 15, 1832 with the name Bonickhausen dit Eiffel. This name was influenced by his German origins. The family’s origins can be traced back to one Jean-René Bönickhausen, who migrated from Marmagen in Germany and settled in Paris. The name Eiffel was taken from the mountains of Eifel surrounding the area from where they originated.
Gustave was not a child fond of studying in his early life, but, with time, his interest in things like literature and chemistry started to grow. This rise in interest was due to the efforts of his teachers and his uncle, who invented a process for distilling vinegar. Gustave’s uncle also passed down the knowledge of how things work to his nephew.
Gustave went on to study at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, to pursue a career in engineering. During his early career life, Gustave worked under many big names in the field, with his main focus on railways and bridges. With his work, he built his career and slowly gained recognition. By 1866, Gustave had built enough of a reputation and gathered enough money to set up his own workshop. He was well-known in his field due to which he was invited around the world; this brought him many traveling opportunities. Soon, his engineering feats led him to be known as one of the leading engineers of his time.
Gustave is best known for the Eiffel Tower; but, he contributed to many structures in Paris and other faraway countries, like Chile and Egypt. He is known for his work on the Garabit Viaduct, a famous bridge in France, his contributions to the Statue of Liberty, and his many influences in the world of Meteorology and Aerodynamics.
The History of the Eiffel Tower
The idea of the Eiffel Tower was born when a competition was announced. The competition was held for the world fair, Exposition Universelle, in 1889, which was meant to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
Two engineers, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nauguier, working for Gustave Eiffel at his company Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel are credited for the design of the tower. The engineers came up with the design after being inspired by the Latting Observatory in New York City. They originally wanted their tower to be the tallest structure made by man. In May 1884, Maurice Koechlin made the first sketch of the tower. It was made of four separate metal structures with latticework that stood apart at the base and came together at the top to create a large pylon. These four structures were connected at regular intervals throughout with additional latticework metal trusses.
When this initial drawing was shown to Gustave, he was unimpressed, but he allowed them to continue working on the plans. The two engineers took their design to the company’s head of architecture, Stephen Sauvestre, to help them build on the plan. The architect added decorative arches to the structure’s design and a glass pavilion to the first floor of the structure, among other design features.
This design was approved and accepted by Gustave, who went on to submit the design for construction on Champs de Mars. The design of the structure was criticized because people were skeptical. They had seen nothing of the sort ever before. It was meant to be the tallest man-made structure in the world, standing erect at 300 meters. Others were quick to point out technical problems, calling the design impractical and saying the plans were lacking details.
Due to his background and experience, Gustave Eiffel was able to debate his way into a contract. On January 8, 1887, Eiffel signed a contract under his own name rather than his company’s to start construction on the tower. As part of the contract, Eiffel was awarded a 1.5-million Francs grant. Still, this amount was less than a quarter of the proposed 6.5 million needed for the construction. As a result, Gustave set up an independent company specifically for the construction of the Eiffel Tower and put up half the capital himself.
Even though the contract was signed, the construction of the tower still faced some backlash and criticism from the artist community in France. Artists believed that there should be no relationship between art and engineering to retain the beauty of the former. These artists protested and signed a petition calling the tower the “monstrous Eiffel Tower,” questioning its status as art. Gustave was not worried and responded by comparing his structure to the pyramids in Egypt, saying that they brought prestige to their country because of their architectural feats, and his tower would do the same for his country.
The construction of the Eiffel Tower began on January 28, 1887. The foundation was built first, with the four metal feet upon which the metal latticework structures would lay. By July 1, 1887, the pillars were being mounted, and the 1st floor was built by April 1, 1888. The total time for the construction of the tower was two years, two months, and five days. The Eiffel Tower is built out of 18,038 different metal parts put together by 2.5 million rivets. The iron used for the structure weighs in at 7,300 tonnes, which required 60 tonnes of paint to cover. The Eiffel Tower is fitted with five lifts for people to get to the top. The construction of this mammoth tower was possible by the 150 factory workers and 150-300 on-site construction workers that spent their time and effort building one of the most recognized structures in the world.
This fascinating structure has become an object of admiration and awe. Imitations and replications of it can be spotted around the world, from Las Vegas to Tokyo. However, none of them can come close to the architectural marvel that is the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is also the most visited paid-for monument in the world with a record-breaking 6.91 million people visiting and entering it in 2015 alone!
About the Author: Amita Vadlamudi is a frequent blogger and article writer. Her computer and technology related articles can be found on her blog site https://amitavadlamudiblog.com .