The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower (la Tour Eiffel) is an iron tower built on the Champ de Mars beside the River Seine in Paris, France. It is the tallest structure in Paris, the fifth-tallest structure in France and possibly the most recognized monument in Europe. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, it is the most visited monument in the world. Including the 24 m (78.7 ft) antenna, the structure is 324 m (1063 ft) high (since 2000). In 1902, it was struck by lightning, which meant that 300 feet of the top had to be reconstructed and the lights illuminating the tower had to be replaced, as they were damaged by the high energy of the lightning. The structure of the Eiffel Tower weighs 7300 tons. There are 1660 steps (360 to the first level, another 359 to the second). It is not possible for the public to reach the summit via the stairs, lifts are required beyond the second platform. Lift tickets may be purchased at the base or either platform. Maintenance of the tower includes applying 50-60 tons of three graded tones of paint every seven years to protect it from rust. On occasion, the color of the paint is changed — the tower is currently painted a shade of brownish-gray. However, the tower is actually painted three different colors in order to make it look the same color. The colors change from dark to light from top to bottom, but it looks the same because of the background (the sky being light and the ground being dark). On the first floor, there are interactive consoles hosting a poll for the color to use for a future session of painting. The co-architects of the Eiffel Tower are Emile Naugier, Maurice Koechlin and Stephen Sauvestre.

The structure was built between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance arch for the Exposition Universelle, a World’s Fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution. Eiffel originally planned to build it in Barcelona, for the Universal Exposition of 1888, but they rejected it. The tower was inaugurated on 31 March, 1889, and opened on 6 May. Three hundred workers joined together 18,038 pieces of puddled iron (a very pure form of structural iron). The risk of accident was great, for unlike modern skyscrapers the tower is an open frame without any intermediate floors except the two platforms. Yet because Eiffel took safety precautions including use of movable stagings, guard-rails and screens, only one man died, during the installation of its elevator’s lifts. The tower was met with resistance from the public when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. Novelist Guy de Maupassant — who claimed to hate the tower — supposedly ate lunch at the Tower’s restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that it was the one place in Paris where you couldn’t see the Tower.

Today, it is widely considered to be a striking piece of structural art. One of the great Hollywood movie cliches is that the view from a Parisian window always includes the tower. In reality, since zoning restrictions limit the height of most buildings in Paris to a few stories, only the very few taller buildings have a clear view of the tower. Eiffel had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years, meaning it would have had to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it could be easily demolished) but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes, it was allowed to remain after the expiry of the permit. The military used it to dispatch Parisian taxis to the front line of the Marne, and it therefore became a victory statue of that battle. It was also used to catch the infamous «Mata Hari», and after this, its demolition became unthinkable.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the tower has been used for radio transmission. During the German occupation of Paris between 1940 and 1944 the tower was also used for German television broadcasts, which were apparently intended mostly for wounded German soldiers in local military hospitals. Since 1957, the tower has been used for transmission of FM radio and television. The tower has two restaurants: Altitude 95, on the first floor (95m above sea level); and the Jules Verne, an expensive gastronomical restaurant on the second floor, with a private lift.

Images of the tower have long been in the public domain; however, in 2003 SNTE installed a new lighting display on the tower. The effect was to put any night-time image of the tower and its lighting display under copyright. As a result, it was no longer legal to publish contemporary photographs of the tower at night without permission in some countries.