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PARIS: The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most - if not 'the' most iconic symbol in Paris, and probably the whole of France. However, it attracted an enormous amount of criticism when it first broke the skyline in 1889 as part of the Universal Exhibition in Paris, but fortunately its graceful symmetry soon made it a star attraction.

During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. Furthermore, it is still the tallest structure in Paris as well as the most-visited paid monument in the world.

Despite its delicate appearance, it weighs 10,100 metric tons and engineer Gustave Eiffel's construction was so sound that the tower never sways more than 3.5 inches in strong winds!

You may be surprised to know that Gustave Eiffel only had a permit for his tower to stand for 20 years. In fact it was going to be dismantled in 1909 when its ownership reverted back to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down because part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it could be easily demolished.

Luckily, the tower proved valuable for communication purposes, and so it was allowed to remain after the expiry of the permit. In the opening weeks of the First World War, powerful radio transmitters were fitted to the tower in order to jam German communications. This seriously hindered their advance on Paris, and contributed to the Allied victory at the First Battle of the Marne.

Eiffel Tower facts

1. The puddled iron structure of the Eiffel Tower weighs 7,300 tonnes, while the entire structure, including non-metal components, is approximately 10,000 tonnes.

As a demonstration of the economy of design, if the 7,300 tonnes of the metal structure were melted down it would fill the 125-metre-square base to a depth of only 6 cm, assuming the density of the metal to be 7.8 tonnes per cubic metre.

2. Depending on the ambient temperature, the top of the tower may shift away from the sun by up to 18 cm  because of thermal expansion of the metal on the side facing the sun.

3. At the time the tower was built many people were shocked by its daring shape. Eiffel was criticised for the design and accused of trying to create something artistic, or inartistic according to the viewer, without regard to engineering.  As experienced bridge builders, Eiffel and his engineers understood the importance of wind forces and knew that if they were going to build the tallest structure in the world they had to be certain it would withstand the wind.

Gustave Eiffel
In an interview reported in the newspaper Le Temps, Eiffel said:
"Now to what phenomenon did I give primary concern in designing the Tower? It was wind resistance. Well then! I hold that the curvature of the monument's four outer edges, which is as mathematical calculation dictated it should be […] will give a great impression of strength and beauty, for it will reveal to the eyes of the observer the boldness of the design as a whole."
As a demonstration of the tower's effectiveness in wind resistance, it sways only 6–7 cm (2–3 in) in the wind.

4. When built, the first level contained two restaurants: an "Anglo-American Bar", and a 250 seat theatre. A 2.6 m promenade ran around the outside. On the second level, the French newspaper Le Figaro had an office and a printing press, where a special souvenir edition, Le Figaro de la Tour, was produced. There was also a pâtisserie.

On the third level were laboratories for various experiments and a small apartment reserved for Gustave Eiffel to entertain guests. This is now open to the public, complete with period decorations and lifelike models of Gustave and some guests.

5.  Gustave Eiffel engraved on the tower seventy-two names of French scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in recognition of their contributions. This engraving was painted over at the beginning of the twentieth century but restored in 1986–1987 by the Société Nouvelle d'exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, a company contracted to operate business related to the Tower.

6. Maintenance of the tower includes applying 50 to 60 tonnes of paint every seven years to protect it from rust. The height of the Eiffel Tower varies by 15 cm due to temperature.

7. In order to enhance the impression of height, three separate colours of paint are used on the tower, with the darkest on the bottom and the lightest at the top. On occasion the colour of the paint is changed and the tower is currently painted a shade of bronze. On the first floor there are interactive consoles hosting a poll for the colour to use for a future session of painting.

8. The only non-structural elements in the whole design of the tower are the four decorative grill-work arches, added in Stephen Sauvestre's sketches, which served to reassure visitors that the structure was safe, and to frame views of other nearby architecture.

9. One of the great Hollywood movie clichés 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 7 storeys, only a very few of the taller buildings have a clear view of the tower.

10. Eiffel's drawings were so precise, giving details for more than 18,000 metal parts, that the tower was erected in just a little more than two years. An astounding 2.5 million rivets hold the parts together.

11. The Eiffel Towers has recently been declared the most valuable monument in Europe - worth 435 billion euros (£343 billion) to the French economy. This equates to six times its nearest rival, the Colosseum in Rome, valued at 91 billion euros.

For related articles click onto:
FRANCE: The Versailles Gardens
FRANCE: The Palais des Papes
PARIS: The Arc de Triomphe
PARIS: The Eiffel Tower
PARIS: The Louvre
PARIS: Where is the Eiffel Tower?
PARIS: Where is the Louvre?
Based on an article from and
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