When Gustave Eiffel and French designers Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier unveiled their groundbreaking concept for the Eiffel Tower in the 1880s, the Parisian artistic community wasn’t impressed. Intellectuals like Charles Garnier and Guy de Maupassant criticized it as an eyesore, igniting the infamous “Artists Against the Eiffel Tower” petition.
The Original Designs
Koechlin and Nouguier drafted the initial sketches and even compared their tower to landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, also built by Gustave Eiffel, for perspective. Among 14 rejected designs, the third resembled the final tower, complete with embellished lower-tier trusses.
Saved by its Critics
After serving as the grand entrance to the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which celebrated the French Revolution’s 100th anniversary, the tower’s fate remained uncertain. Paris officials considered demolition. However, when World War I broke out, the same artists who had originally criticized the tower recognized its value as a radio communication tool and rallied to save it.
Equipped with radio transmitters, the tower served as a wireless communications hub for the French military, helping to intercept enemy messages and coordinate troop movements. Its pivotal role in secure communications during the war convinced authorities of its enduring utility, leading to its preservation.
Eiffel Tower’s opening date
Opened on March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower set new engineering benchmarks. Composed of over 18,000 iron pieces and held together by 2.5 million rivets, it stood 330 meters tall. Gustave Eiffel applied groundbreaking techniques to combat wind resistance, securing the tower’s structural integrity for years to come.
It’s hard to envision modern Paris without its signature landmark. Interestingly, Gustave Eiffel never intended for the structure to remain indefinitely. Yet, its technological utility during World War I and shifting public sentiment preserved it.
A Symbol of Resilience and Ingenuity
Today, the Eiffel Tower symbolizes human ingenuity and adaptability, evolving from a contentious project to a universally revered icon.
Originally posted May 5, 2020, and updated August 29, 2023.