When I first laid eyes on the infamous Iron Lady, I was swept away. There she was in all of her glory, standing over 1,000 feet high; the 10,000-tonne iron skeleton. She is something out of a fairytale with her unique shape and composition. Who would have thought that this sculpture made entirely out of iron could be so captivating as to draw in travellers from every corner of the world? Oh, but to see her under the moonlight. What beauty; what radiance! Lined with over five billion lights, she shines brightly in the darkness of the night. She lights up the city like a starry night and gives it life and character. In the evening, every hour on the hour for five minutes she dances. Over 20,000 bulbs flicker in a soundless symphony of lights, making the tower sparkle like pixy dust. She is truly magical and a thing of dreams.
The architectural wonder of the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of the city and the pride of every Parisian. Oddly enough, when the tower was first constructed, citizens considered it an “eyesore,” the “ugliest building in Paris” and “structurally unsound.” Three hundred artists, sculptors, writers and architects even sent a petition to the commissioner of the Paris Exposition to stop the construction of the “ridiculous tower” that would hover over Paris like a “gigantic black smokestack.” Fortunately, officials saved the tower, which was only meant to be a temporary exhibition for the 1899 World Fair, due to its utility as a radio-telegraph station.
During World War II, the tower intercepted enemy radio communications, alerted the city of attacks and dispatched emergency troops. Even Hitler ordered the tower to be destroyed! But there she is today, still standing strong despite all efforts to destroy her and has now been the model of over 30 replicas and similar structures around the world.
The world-famous Eiffel Tower is known to be designed by French engineer Gustave Eiffel, but his employees, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, actually came up with the design. Koechlin also collaborated with Eiffel on the Statue of Liberty several years earlier.
With over 18,000 pieces of lattice wrought-iron and 2.5 million rivets, the tower was meant to demonstrate France’s industrial excellence and power to the world. When the tower was built, iron was a new material that sprouted during the Industrial Revolution and usually appeared internally in buildings. The tower was built to sway slightly in the wind, but the sun is actually what makes the tower sway the most. The sun-facing side heats up and moves the top section of the tower as much as seven inches away from the sun. The sun also makes the tower grow six inches vertically.
The tower is composed of 7,300 tons of iron and 60 tons of paint, costing the city about 8 million francs to build. The tower is repainted every seven years and has been painted a total of 18 times. It has three platforms: the first, 190 feet above the ground; the second, 376 feet; and the third, 900 feet. There are 1,710 steps and two elevators. One elevator travels a total distance of 103,000 kilometres each year to accommodate the seven million yearly visitors.
Although the Eiffel Tower has no utility or purpose today, it is imbued with symbolic meaning as it was one of the first structures in Paris open to people of different social and ethnic backgrounds.