The Eiffel Tower: Is it an iron pile or a masterpiece?

The story of this huge tower, which took two years to build and the names of artists engraved on it to escape artist criticism, is full of changes.
Interesting Engineering

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Iron Lady? If your answer is Thatcher, you are not French. Because when you say "La dame de fer" to French people, of course, the first thing that comes to their mind is the Eiffel tower.

So, what is the reason for creating this iron pile, which has a unique name, is a cultural icon, and draws 6 million tourists annually?

The story of the Eiffel tower, described as a technological masterpiece in some places, begins with a competition held by the French government to celebrate the revolution. It was constructed from 1887 to 1889 as the centerpiece of the 1889 World’s Fair.  The project that belonged to entrepreneur Gustave Eiffel, engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, and architect Stephen Sauvestre, was chosen from among 107 projects. 

The assembly of the supports began on July 1, 1887, and was completed twenty-two months later. Originally intended as a temporary exhibit, the Eiffel Tower was nearly demolished and scrapped in 1909. But Gustave Eiffel found a viable reason to convince the city government it should stay. This persuasion resulted in the city government realizing that the tower could be used as a radiotelegraph station, and the tower remained in place without being dismantled.

It was to be designed like a large pylon with four columns of latticework girders, separated at the base and coming together at the top, joined to each other by more metal girders at regular intervals.  The Eiffel Tower marked a clear departure from the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance, and Neo-Baroque styles prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries. The inspiration for the design came from the Latting Observatory built in New York City in 1853.

As a result, a design that differed significantly from Sauvastre's first proposal, which included large halls with glass walls, monumental arches, and stone carvings, emerged. The project was simplified at this point, with elements such as the arches at its base remaining to give it a more distinctive appearance. Each of the 18,000 pieces used to construct the tower were specifically designed and calculated, traced out to an accuracy of a tenth of a millimeter and then put together forming new pieces around 16 feet (5 meters) each.

All metal parts in this structure were made using the hot riveting technique, a very sophisticated construction method for that period. You can see this process in greater detail by watching our well-received hot riveting video.  Although the metalwork had been prepared with the greatest care, minor adjustments were made to align the legs precisely; hydraulic jacks capable of exerting a force of 800 tonnes(881short tons) were attached to the shoes at the base of each leg, and the legs were deliberately constructed at a slightly steeper angle than necessary, being supported by sandboxes on the scaffolding.

The four-sided tower is divided into four parts based on height: the lower part, between the floor and the first floor (187 ft/ 57.63 m). The second part, between the first and second floor (377 ft/115.73 m from the ground), The third is between the second and third floor (located at  905 ft/276.13 m), and the fourth is from the third to the top (1,062 ft/ 324 m above ground)

Four distinct pillars characterize the first part, and from the second floor, these pillars merge into a single column that rises to the top. The tower is 1,083 ft (330 metres) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building, and the tallest structure in Paris. 

Although there were many rumors that Gustave Eiffel had an apartment building on the top floor of the tower that no one was allowed to enter and that he worked there, visitors learned the truth of this only after 2016. Today, after being off-limits for years, the apartment can be viewed through a window by visitors who buy a ticket to the top.  Because of their unique shape, which was dictated partly by engineering considerations but also partly by Eiffel’s artistic sense, the piers required elevators to ascend on a curve. 

The glass-cage machines designed by an American company became one of the principal features of the building. These elevators provide visitors a fantastic view as they ride to the top of the tower. This tower moves in the wind. All parts of the tower were over-designed to ensure maximum resistance to wind forces.  Many mathematical hypotheses have been developed that the tower is windproof. The most recent of these is as a non-linear integral equation based on counteracting the wind pressure on any point of the tower with the tension between the construction elements at that point.

The names of 72 scientists, engineers and mathematicians who contributed to the construction of the tower were engraved.  Of course, this did not stop many artists and engineers from protesting the tower, as they saw the structure as a huge pylon spoiling the view of Parisians.  We leave you with the Eiffel Tower, which is known to some as one of the most magnificent representations of modernism and industrialization, and the question in the joint statement made by artists whose "aesthetic sensitivity" is beyond doubt. 

“Is the City of Paris willing to dishonor itself by associating itself with the baroque and mercantile whims of a machine builder, thereby rendering itself irreparably ugly?”