A realized utopia
Jan 1, 1884
You are at the top of the Eiffel Tower, overlooking Paris at a height of almost 300 m / 1000 feet.
At the opening of the Tower in 1889, this very place was different from what you are seeing.
It was used, in particular, as a laboratory to carry out scientific experiments and measurements. Many instruments were installed here such as barometers, anemometers, lightning conductors.
In fact, Gustave Eiffel arranged an office for himself at the very top of the Tower for astronomical and physiological observations. He even installed a weather station.
It was these scientific experiments carried at the Tower which saved it from being destroyed by popular demand. Did you know the Tower should have been pulled down just 20 years after it was erected for the 1889 Exposition Universelle!
For the 1889 Universal Exhibition, marking the centenary of the French Revolution, a great competition was announced in the country's Official Gazette.
Universal exhibitions were a technological and industrial showcase for nations, testifying to the achievements made during the industrial revolution.
The 1889 competition consisted of "studying the possibility of erecting on the Champ-de-Mars a 300-metre tower with a 125m2 square base".
The Champ-de-Mars and the Military school as seen from the Trocadéro before the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
Selected from among 107 projects, it was that of Gustave Eiffel, an entrepreneur, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, both engineers, and Stephen Sauvestre, an architect, that was accepted.
A brilliant engineer, Gustave Eiffel founded a company specialising in metal structural work.
In this sense the Eiffel Tower was the very height of his career. He devoted the last thirty years of his life to experimental research.
This enthusiast and true genius was able to transcend his own limits to leave us monuments such as the dome on the Nice Observatory, the metal structure of the Statue of Liberty and the Bordeaux railway bridge.
The competition held at the time of the 1889 Exposition Universelle received several other entries for 300-metre towers.
A serious component was the project of Jules Bourdais, he was the architect of Palais du Trocadéro.
He imagined a tower of 300 m based only of stone.
In June 1884, Emile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin, the two chief engineers in Eiffel's company, came up with the idea of building a very tall tower. It was to be designed like a large pylon.
It would have four columns of latticework girders, separated at the base and coming together at the top, and joined to each other by more metal girders at regular intervals.
The company had by this time perfectly mastered the principle of building bridge supports. The tower project was a bold extension of this principle up to a height of 300 metres - equivalent to the symbolic figure of 1,000 feet.
On 18 September 1884, Eiffel registered a patent “for a new configuration allowing the construction of metal supports and pylons capable of exceeding a height of 300 metres”.
Sauvestre proposed stonework pedestals to dress the legs, monumental arches to link the four columns and the first level, large glass-walled halls on each level, a bulb-shaped design for the top and various other ornamental features to decorate the whole of the structure.
The first floor - Copy of Gustave Eiffel's original plates
The second floor - Copy of Gustave Eiffel's original plates
The top - Copy of Gustave Eiffel's original plates
Antennas - Copy of Gustave Eiffel's original plates
The first digging work started on 26 January 1887 and marked the beginning of the Tower's construction.
Contributor: Conception—Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel
Contributor: Iconographie—Parisienne de photographie et Collection tour Eiffel