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Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is a tall steel construction built by the French civil engineer Alexander Gustave Eiffel (dubbed the "magician of iron" after its erection). Built in Paris for the 1889 Centennial Exposition that commemorated the French Revolution, the tower was the center of controversy before, during and even after its construction. Measuring 300 meters (984 feet) in height, it remained the tallest building in the world until the 1930 completion of the New York City Chrysler Building.

Eiffel won the competition held to solicit designs for a suitable monument to commemorate the Paris celebration. Making use of the latest technology in construction, the monument was a first in many ways. It was twice as tall as either the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome or the Great Pyramid of Giza. The construction was done completely with prefabricated pieces made to fit together at the site. Eiffel used advanced knowledge of the behavior of both the metal arch and metal truss forms under loading, including wind forces. The tower was raised in only a few months with a relatively small labor force and at minimal cost.

The tower’s base was constructed of four semicircular arches that required the use of elevators which could ascend on a curve. These were constructed by the Otis Elevator Company of the United States and helped established the tower as one of the world’s premier tourist attractions. Eiffel considered the four curving arches and slim profile an aesthetically pleasing solution, but other artists, writers and citizens were not pleased with the tower.

Well-known artists of the day wrote in protest of the tower calling it, "...useless and monstrous...," comparing it to the Tower of Babel. Others feared that the tower was doomed to fall and urged local residents to claim damages for the impending danger to their homes. The tower’s design eventually vindicated itself both in engineering and aesthetics and became accepted world-wide as a graceful symbol of Paris.



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