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Who Built the Eiffel Tower?

The Eiffel Tower, an iconic symbol of France, was masterminded by Gustave Eiffel, whose company engineered the iron lattice structure for the 1889 World's Fair. Despite initial criticism, it now stands as a testament to visionary design and engineering. Curious about the challenges faced during its construction? Discover the riveting journey behind this architectural marvel.
Aniza Pourtauborde
Aniza Pourtauborde

Standing tall at 1,052 feet (320.57 m), the imposing iron structure called the Eiffel Tower was once ridiculed by Parisians as being an eyesore and embarrassment to French art and culture. Today, it graces the skyline of the French capital, marking Paris on the map as being the world's most visited city destination. It was named after Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, an ingenious engineer whose design of the tower turned it into a reality and pride of the French nation.

Born on 15 December 1832 in Côte d'Or, France, Eiffel never imagined that he was destined to create some of the world's greatest structures that exist generations into the future. Upon his graduation from the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1855, he became interested in the construction of metal structures, particularly railways and bridges.

The Eiffel tower is one of the most famous structures in the world.
The Eiffel tower is one of the most famous structures in the world.

Eiffel's first job was as a project manager supervising the building of a bridge that spanned across the Garonne River in Bordeaux, south of France. His brilliance and diligence caught the eye of his employer, Charles Nepveu, who continued placing him in supervising positions for many of the company's bridge and railway station building projects. In 1864, he set up his own business as a specialist in the construction of metal structures. His company, Eiffel et Cie., grew renowned for its innovative yet economic designs of iron and metal edifices.

Alexandre Eiffel also helped design the Statue of Liberty.
Alexandre Eiffel also helped design the Statue of Liberty.

One of Eiffel's earliest successes was the building of a 525-feet (160 m) long railway bridge called the Ponte Maria Pia in 1877. This transparent iron bridge helped people traveling between the Portuguese cities of Porto and Lisbon to avoid a 7.5-mile (12 km) detour. Instead, the bridge extended the railway line by 1,158 feet (353 m) into Lisbon. Built at a height of 197 feet (60 m) across the Douro River, this bridge was officiated by the King and Queen of Portugal at the time. In 1991, it was replaced by the St. John Bridge.

The Eiffel Tower was completed in time for a massive 1889 exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
The Eiffel Tower was completed in time for a massive 1889 exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.

The engineer became well-known for his unique use of techniques in all his buildings and structures. Optimizing his knowledge of mathematics and science, he designed another memorable structure, the Garabit viaduct, in 1884. This 1,854-feet (565-m) long railway bridge is built over the Truyère River in the region of Cantal, France. A year later, he began the design on the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France to the United States of America as a symbol of international amity and unity.

Eiffel's ingenuity in design and architecture earned him the Legion d'Honneur, a great distinction in France at the time.
Eiffel's ingenuity in design and architecture earned him the Legion d'Honneur, a great distinction in France at the time.

Eiffel's career as a specialist consultant in metal structures reached its peak when his proposal to build the Eiffel Tower was accepted out of the 700 proposals sent in. Construction of the tower began in 1887. His careful calculation and placement of 18,038 iron pieces fitted together with almost three million rivets, is a remarkable engineering feat even until now. The exact measurements of wind pressures at different heights and against the base pylons ensured that the tower could withstand any impact of wind in the future.

The Eiffel Tower is located in France's capital, Paris.
The Eiffel Tower is located in France's capital, Paris.

Construction was completed two years later on 31 March 1889, just in time for the Centenary Exposition, a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the French Revolution. At this time, the tower was the tallest building in the world, replaced by the Chrysler Building in New York 41 years later. In its first year alone, the tower received two million visitors. Today, six million people from all over the world pay tribute to this impressive iron structure.

Eiffel's ingenuity in design and architecture earned him the Legion d'Honneur, a great distinction in France at the time. After the construction of the tower, he continued his endeavors as a scientist and researcher in the area of aerodynamics until his death on 27 December 1923. Even though his death was a great loss to the nation, his legacy continues to stand as a magnificent landmark of Paris for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was the main architect behind the design of the Eiffel Tower?

The Eiffel Tower was designed by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company, Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel, was responsible for the construction. Although Eiffel is often credited with the design, it was actually his employees, Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, who initially conceived the idea. Architect Stephen Sauvestre was brought in to add decorative arches and a glass pavilion to the tower's summit, enhancing its aesthetic appeal.

When was the Eiffel Tower constructed, and how long did it take?

Construction of the Eiffel Tower began in January 1887 and was completed in March 1889, taking just over two years to build. This remarkable feat was achieved in time for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) in Paris, which commemorated the centennial of the French Revolution. The tower served as the grand entrance to the fair and was an instant sensation.

How many workers were involved in the construction of the Eiffel Tower, and were there any fatalities?

According to historical records, the construction of the Eiffel Tower involved around 300 workers on-site. Remarkably, despite the potential dangers associated with constructing such a monumental structure during that era, there was only one fatality during the entire project. This is a testament to the advanced safety measures and the meticulous planning that went into the tower's construction.

What were the technical innovations that made the Eiffel Tower's construction possible?

The Eiffel Tower's construction featured several technical innovations, including the use of pneumatic caissons for the foundations and the extensive use of prefabricated iron components. These parts were produced off-site and then assembled with precision, using more than 18,000 individual pieces and 2.5 million rivets. The use of a cantilever method also allowed for the tower's construction without the need for scaffolding beyond the first level.

What was the initial public reaction to the Eiffel Tower, and how has its perception changed over time?

Initially, the Eiffel Tower faced criticism from some of Paris's leading artists and intellectuals, who viewed it as an eyesore. A group of prominent figures, including Charles Gounod and Guy de Maupassant, signed a petition called "Protest against the Tower of Mr. Eiffel." However, over time, the structure won over skeptics and became a beloved symbol of Paris and French ingenuity. Today, it is one of the most recognized and visited monuments in the world.

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    • The Eiffel tower is one of the most famous structures in the world.
      By: Kristan
      The Eiffel tower is one of the most famous structures in the world.
    • Alexandre Eiffel also helped design the Statue of Liberty.
      By: vlad_g
      Alexandre Eiffel also helped design the Statue of Liberty.
    • The Eiffel Tower was completed in time for a massive 1889 exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
      By: illustrez-vous
      The Eiffel Tower was completed in time for a massive 1889 exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
    • Eiffel's ingenuity in design and architecture earned him the Legion d'Honneur, a great distinction in France at the time.
      By: benkenogy
      Eiffel's ingenuity in design and architecture earned him the Legion d'Honneur, a great distinction in France at the time.
    • The Eiffel Tower is located in France's capital, Paris.
      By: polesnoy
      The Eiffel Tower is located in France's capital, Paris.