Controversies of the Eiffel Tower

While today the Eiffel Tower is one of the most influential and prominent figures not only in Paris, but globally as well; during the time of its construction, the structure received much controversy.  During the 1859 Worlds Fair, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel wanted to fulfill all expectations and create a structure to symbolize Frances industrial potential and the capabilities of recent engineering that has developed in Paris.  While Eiffel had confidence in his ambitious design, and believed his tower would be a success, many Parisians protested the construction of the ambiguous landmark.

On February 14 1887, the tower was in its beginning stages of construction.  However, many contemporary artists, sculptors, writers, and poets hit the streets in protest, arguing that the structure had no individuality, and did not fit in with the rest of the classic architecture of Paris.  A publication written to the director of the Worlds Fair was printed in Le Temps discussing the protest of the design, and was signed by many of those who strongly opposed the construction of the tower.

Charles Garnier is a famous critic of Gustave and the Eiffel Tower.
Charles Garnier is a famous critic of Gustave and the Eiffel Tower (Debate and Controversy Surrounding the Eiffel Tower).

The Eiffel Tower suffered tremendous insults.  Many Parisians “feared it was structurally unsound or considered it an eye sore”(HC), and even considered the global monument a “belfry skeleton”, “a truly tragic street lamp”, and “ a half-built factory pipe, a carcass waiting to be fleshed out with freestone or brick, a funnel-shaped grill, a hole-riddled suppository” (Plumley).  Gustave Eiffel fought back by stating “ The curves of the four arrises (arches) of the monument will give an impression of beauty because they will demonstrate to the viewer the boldness of the conception” (Plumley).  With the complete construction of the tower, many citizens were even embarrassed to be considered Parisians because they feared the humility and cruel jokes of the rest of the world. Over 5,300 drawings were created of the Tower.  Many people had doubts that the tower was capable of being brought to life since the tallest building at the time was the Washington Monument, which took more than 36 years to build, and Eiffel had just less than two.  Parisian Guy de Maupassant ate in the towers restaurant occasionally because he was fully hidden from seeing “this giant and disgraceful skeleton” (Weber).

This is a cartoon mocking Gustave and his tower at the time ( Debate and Controversy Surrounding the Eiffel Tower)
This is a cartoon mocking Gustave and his tower at the time ( Debate and Controversy Surrounding the Eiffel Tower)

Not only was the tower receiving harsh criticisms and protests, but the engineers responsible for its design and construction were also the victims of cruel disapproval.  The Parisians looked down upon the engineers, and considered them to be “uneducated, crass-certainly not possessing of any aesthetic sensibilities” (Plumley).  Not only was Eiffel the first to defend his innovative design, he also defended the accomplished engineers who created the structure with him.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, many were in favor of the iron structure, also called La Dame or the Iron Lady.  Paul Gauguin portrayed the tower as a new art form, a “triumph of iron”(Weber).  A considerable amount of people agreed with Eiffel, that the tower would demonstrate Frances superiority in engineering and technology, and dominate the World’s Fair.

On March 31 1889, despite harsh criticisms and skeptics, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated.  Standing at 985 feet, and weighing in at 10,100 tons, the Eiffel Tower not only served as the entrance arch to the Worlds Fair, but fully demonstrated Frances capability in industrial society.

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-Kerianne Watlington

Works Cited

“Eiffel Tower.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013

Plumley, Karen. “The Construction of the Eiffel Tower.” Paris Eiffel Tower News. Paris Eiffel Tower News. Web. 29 Oct 2013

Weber, Caroline. “Lightning Rods and Sideshows.” New York Times. The New York Times Company, 29 May 2009. Web. 27 Oct. 2013

“Debate and Controversy Surrounding the Eiffel Tower.” La Tour Eiffel. SETE, 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.

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2 Responses to Controversies of the Eiffel Tower

  1. Pingback: The Iron Lady and Her Impact on the Parisian Culture. » Mapping Paris

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