What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Paris, or even France? We all know its most famous and iconic structure, either we’ve seen it in person or in a multitude of films, but why was the Eiffel Tower built? Well, there are several reasons.
The 1889 World’s Fair in Paris
The first and main reason the tower was designed and constructed was to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the French Revolution in Europe as part of the 1889 World’s Fair held in Paris. The French Revolution was aimed at eliminating the divine right of kings and ending dictatorships to install a democratic system of government. Today it is still a very important event in French history.
To mark this special anniversary, the people and officials of France wanted to celebrate by making France even more beautiful. Since its erection, the Eiffel Tower has become one of the most beautiful buildings of not only in France, but also in the world. It’s even one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Leading up to the fair, the organisers held a design competition all over France. Several designers and engineers came up with different ideas and designs on how France could be improved. Amongst the various ideas, a design by Gustave Eiffel made the best impression on a majority of the people. A little-known fact is that Gustave Eiffel also designed the internal body of Liberty Statue.
The design of the Eiffel Tower was the product of Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, two senior engineers working for the Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel.
Eiffel has openly acknowledged that inspiration for the tower came from the Latting Observatory built in New York City in 1853. In May 1884, Koechlin made a sketch of their idea, which he described as being “a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals”.
Eiffel approved the further development of the design and asked Stephen Sauvestre, the head of the company’s architectural department, to contribute to the design. Sauvestre proceeded to add decorative arches to the base of the tower, a glass pavilion to the first level, and other details.
Enthusiastic by the final draft, Eiffel’s bought the rights to the patent on the design which Koechlin, Nougier, and Sauvestre had taken out. The design was then shown at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in 1884 under the company name.
Lasting just over two years, construction of the Eiffel tower began on the 26th of January, 1887 and was completed on the 31st of March, 1889. With a towering height of 324 meters, the tower is made up of seven thousand tons of steel.
Eiffel was to receive all income from the commercial exploitation of the tower during the exhibition and for the next 20 years.
From 1800 to 1938 the World’s Fair exhibitions were focused on trade, and were famous for the display of technological inventions and advancements and served as a platform for state-of-the-art advancement in science and technology from around the world were brought together. Which brings us to the second reason why the Eiffel tower was built.
Advancement in Technology
In 1885, after having obtained the rights to the design and before a design was chosen, Eiffel presented his plans to the Société des Ingénieurs Civils. Detailing the technical problems and emphasising the practical uses of the tower. In closing he stated that the tower would symbolise,
Not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France’s gratitude.
Due to the great height of the Eiffel Tower, it was the perfect platform from which to conduct experiments involving temperature, pressure and radio telegraphy. Thus making it the obvious choice to support. The tower served as the main symbol and as an impressive entrance to the fair.
During the first 20 years after its construction, Eiffel received all income from the commercial exploitation of the tower during the exhibition. After which time several people wanted it to be demolished and used for scrap metal purposes. Thankfully, it was saved by politicians and scientists who wanted to use it as a radio transmission tower, which is why the Eiffel Tower still stands today.
The Tallest Building in the World
The last reason the Eiffel Tower was built was because it was the tallest building in the world at the time. This alone motivated most of the French builders to take up the design of the tower and construct it.
Today, the Eiffel Tower is of great importance in France and its tourism industry with 6.8 million visitors each year and 250 million visitors since it was built. From the top of the tower, you can see as far as 42 miles or 67 kilometres.
Over to you!
Have you visited the Eiffel Tower in person? What were your first impressions?
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