This year marks the 125th birthday of the Eiffel Tower. However, its existence hasn’t always been a cause for celebration – in fact, Parisians hated it when it was first built.
They have come round in the intervening years, however. The 324m high metal tower is, arguably, the city’s most instantly recognisable symbol and one of the world’s most enduring tourist attractions.
Some 7 million people visit this architectural icon each year.
It came about because the government in Paris wanted to mark the centenary of the French revolution with a tower that would demonstrate France’s industrial prowess to the world. The winning design would stand at the entrance to the world fair, l’exposition universelle, due to be held in the capital in 1889.
Engineer Gustave Eiffel won the competition with his iron lattice tower – much to the dismay of local writers and architects. Eminent artists such as Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas were among its most vocal critics.
They argued that the site was unsuitable, the design was ugly and that the tower would overshadow some of the capital’s other main sights, such as Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.
“It is by no means the tallest structure in the world anymore – or even in France – but it is still one of the most loved”
Construction took just over two years. Despite the opposition, when it was complete, the tower proved a huge hit with the public. Nearly 2 million went up it before the l’exposition universelle closed.
The tower had been commissioned as a temporary structure only and was due to be dismantled in 1909. However, its popularity and its standing as the then highest man-made construction in the world meant that it was allowed to remain.
Today, 125 years later, it is by no means the tallest structure in the world anymore – or even in France – but it is still one of the most loved.