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The Eiffel Tower as a Form of Art Essay

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2021

Eiffel tower is the tallest building in Paris and a landmark monument in Paris the capital of France. The tower was the tallest building in the world and build as a landmark of Paris on the world map for the International Exhibition of Paris in 1889 to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution. Even though it is not the tallest building in the world anymore, the unique art of the tower attracts tourists from all over the world and is a Paris signpost.

The structure of the Eiffel tower was conceived in Eiffel’s metal structure business company; in 1884 Emile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin had an idea of a large tower similar to a large pylon. In order to decorate the metallic structure and make it more acceptable to the public, the chief engineers hired architect Stephen Sauvestre. Stephen proposed many decorations, such as stonework pedestals on the legs, arches in the lowest level that link the columns, glass-walled halls to host restaurants and shopping arcades on every level.

The design of the Eiffel tower structure by structural engineer Alexander Gustave Eiffel was unanimously selected out of 700 proposals. The 300m high tower weighs 7000 tons and has a base of four pylons with a tower above it that tapers upward. The uniqueness of the Eiffel tower design is the exposed iron latticework that fascinates artists.

Protests against architecture

The industrial revolution in Europe in the nineteenth century made cast iron a popular building material. The first building in Paris with metalwork was the central market building in Paris, Les Halles; it was constructed by Victor Baltard and Felix Callet in 1853. The new building architecture was being adopted for railway stations, markets, factories, glass-roofed buildings, and halls with the use of iron due to its qualities such as lightweight and strong. The metal architecture of the Eiffel tower was criticized by the architects of the time, it was ridiculed as “the tragic street lamp” (Leon Bloy), “this belfry skeleton” (Paul Verlaine), and “half-built factory pipe” (Joris-Karl Huysmans).

The “Protest against the Tower of Monsieur Eiffel” was addressed to World Fair’s director Monsieur Alphand and published in the newspaper Le Temps the comments such as “Is the City of Paris any longer to associate itself with the baroque and mercantile fancies of a builder of machines, thereby making itself irreparably ugly and bringing dishonor?” and “And for twenty years we shall see spreading across the whole city, a city shimmering with the genius of so many centuries, we shall see spreading like an ink stain, the odious shadow of this odious column of bolted metal.”, was a challenge to Eiffel and his engineers and architect. In 1889 when the construction was complete the monument was an enormous success, more than 200 million visitors have visited the monument in 118 years since then.

Construction of the tower

Eiffel tower was built with 18,000 pieces traced with an accuracy of 10th of a millimeter. The pieces were assembled in the factory to make larger pieces; a total of 2,500,000 rivets were used in assembly. The magnificent art monument was assembled by the beating of a sledgehammer on rivets. The tower construction finished on March 31, 1889, and then Eiffel received his decoration from the Legion of Honour on the platform at the top. The original hydraulic elevators with double looped chains and rollers have now been replaced with electric computer-controlled cabins that can take visitors up to the third level and the famous Jules Verne restaurant.

Maintenance of the tower

The cast iron is protected from oxidation by painting. Gustave Eiffel had mentioned in his book “The 300-Meter tower” that the paint job must be meticulous for the long life of the tower. The tower is painted once every seven years on average. It has changed color many times from red-brown to bronze. The tower was renovated in 1983 by removing tons of material that had accumulated in years since its construction, reinforcing parts for more strength, installing a new elevator, and replacing the spiral staircase with a rectangular staircase.

Preserved as a monument

The Eiffel tower was to be torn down after 20 years of construction but it stands today because of the height of the tower that makes it useful for many scientific experiments and applications. Meteorologists would measure pressure and humidity and radiotelegraphy and aerodynamics researchers would experiment with objects falling from great heights. Eiffel himself made astronomical and physiological observations from the third level. The utility of the tower for science experiments has won it the preservation status of a monument. Scientific devices such as barometers, anemometers, and lightning conductors were present at the tower side in 1889.

In order to make the tower a commercial utility place rather than just a landmark monument, Eiffel approached military officials to take the advantage of the height of the tower for a long-distance radio antenna. After this proposal in 1901, radio connections with military bases in France were established and a permanent radio station was set up in the Eiffel tower in 1906. Eiffel tower dismantling plans were not executed and a European public radio broadcast aerial was installed on the tower, Eiffel lived to hear the broadcast in 1921. The object of engineering art today hosts several antennas including a television mast on the top level.

Eiffel tower is illuminated with neon and sodium lamps today instead of gas and incandescent lamps that were used in the nineteenth century. The lighting at night illuminates the steel structure and highlights its delicacy.

Tribute to science and admiration by artists

Gustave Eiffel engraved names of 72 world scientists on the tower as a tribute to their contribution to the modern world. The much-criticized design of the Eiffel tower was vindicated by Avant-grade poets, photographers, and painters who praised it for its modernity and considered it as an embodiment of art and science. Eiffel tower became a symbolic representation of Paris and France. Its unique size, shape, and structure have drawn artists to paint it in different colors to show its architecture. Georges Seurat painted the Eiffel tower in 1888 before the construction was complete; Robert Delaunay started a canvas painting series in 1910.

The design of the Eiffel tower was commercialized as a souvenir in the form of miniature models, lamp stands, bracelet charms, etc. The Eiffel tower celebrates modern art and science by hosting exhibitions and the relationship between the Eiffel tower and art is extended into a cinema where it has been filmed for many movies.

This art object that is also considered as a wedding between art and technology creates many possibilities in both fields. The structure that was designed to be extraordinary attracts visitors from around the world and thus creates a network of individuals raising many different types of needs. The individual needs are met by different businesses that require many other structures to be conceived, designed, and constructed with the latest technologies. A visitor to the Eiffel tower will travel by air, rail, ship, or road, and hence modern airports, bridges, vehicles, and road infrastructure must be built.

The maintenance of this art edifice requires 7,500,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 65,000 square meters of drinking water annually. These energy requirements are met by many other technology innovations. Eiffel tower is one of the most visited monuments in the world with approximately 7 million visitors every year. The needs of these visitors are met by supplying food and water, tickets for entry to the monument, and cleaning equipment are other necessary items. The different types of services not only raise quality competition between providers but also inspire new innovations. The 10,000 bulbs that are used for illumination are of 100 different types.

By creating this marvelous piece of modern art and technology Gustave Eiffel and company not only created a landmark for Paris and France but raised an inspiration for technologically advanced life in other parts of the world. The media antennas on the top of the tower connect the world to the tower. The international festival brought people to the Eiffel tower creating a transport infrastructure that is being advanced with the latest technology innovations.

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"The Eiffel Tower as a Form of Art." IvyPanda, 15 Sept. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/the-eiffel-tower-as-a-form-of-art/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Eiffel Tower as a Form of Art." September 15, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-eiffel-tower-as-a-form-of-art/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Eiffel Tower as a Form of Art'. 15 September.

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