- Article by Melissa Rymer
In Skeletons, we take a look at the origins of notable and iconic structures and how they’ve withstood the ravages of time to now stand testament to the timelessness of good design.
The Eiffel Tower was built between 1887 and 1889 in Paris. Named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, it was originally built for the 1899 World’s Fair. One of the world’s most iconic and photographed structures, it was built of wrought iron lattice and is 324 metres high, approximately the height of an 81-storey building. The base pillars of this impressive construction were oriented with the four points of the compass.
The subject of some controversy in the 1880s, the Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel) was the focus of a long-standing and passionate debate about the relationship between architecture and engineering. There were many artists and other creative individuals who felt that this engineering marvel would be a blight on the Parisian landscape. Eventually, many changed their minds, although apparently, the writer Guy de Maupassant chose to eat lunch in the Eiffel Tower as it was the only place in Paris where he would not have to look at it!
Originally intended as a temporary exhibit, the Eiffel Tower was almost torn down in 1909, but city officials opted to save it after recognising its value as a radiotelegraph station. During World War I, the Eiffel Tower intercepted enemy radio communications, relayed Zeppelin alerts and was used to dispatch emergency troop reinforcements.
It escaped destruction a second time during World War II: Adolf Hitler initially ordered the demolition of the city’s most cherished symbol, but the command was never carried out. Also during the German Occupation of Paris, French resistance fighters famously cut its elevator cables, so that the Nazis had to climb the stairs.
Given the strict building laws in Paris, the Eiffel Tower remains the most impressive architectural feature, and reference point on the landscape. The tower has two restaurants – one run by famed chef Alain Ducasse has a Michelin star. In 2015, there were close to seven million visitors making it one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world.
This article first appeared in AR issue #153