"The first principle of architectural beauty is that
the essential lines of a construction be determined by
a perfect appropriateness to its use." Gustave Eiffel
Today, the Eiffel Tower is a international icon of Paris. In all of its glory, it can be seen both day and night from almost all parts of the city. The Eiffel Tower caused a sensation in its own time as the tallest structure in the world and as a milestone in iron construction as well as engineering - as it was the first building in almost 5,000 years to surpass the height of the Great Pyramid. Research engineers, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, worked under the guidance of Gustave Eiffel, and constructed the Tower in collaboration with the architect Stephan Suavestre. The Eiffel Tower is piece of art, a graceful and functional structure made with iron lattice pylon. It towers over the city at 1,020 feet (312 meters).
With the celebrations surrounding the Centennial of the French Revolution approaching, the Tower was also intended to spark French nationalism and pride. Similar to other momentous monuments, the Tower inevitably was criticized and slandered. A fair number of well-respected mainstream French artists, writers and intellectuals complained in 1887 that the Tower would be a "monstrous symbol of the craven machine age" that would destroy the integrity of Paris. A petition of more than three hundred names in opposition of the Tower's erection included: Guy de Maupassant, Émile Zola, Charles Garnier (architect of the Opéra Garnier), and Alexandre Dumas. The petition read,
"We, the writers, painters, sculptors, architects and lovers of the beauty of Paris, do protest with all our vigour and all our indignation, in the name of French taste and endangered French art and history, against the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower."
Despite the petitioners, reputable names such as Rousseau, Utrillo, Chagall, and Delaunay all were fascinated and in admiration of Eiffel. While the idea of building a expansive iron structure had been circulating among architects for some time, the execution of this monumental tower was extraordinary. The idea of the Tower first surfaced in 1884 in order to mark the Exposition of 1889 which was to be held in Paris. From the mid-1800s Expositions were held throughout Europe and America in order to bring attention to the architectural developments in style, construction and achievements. The Eiffel Tower is certainly one of the most well known, as well as still remaining, representations of the World Fair Expositions throughout the 19th century. It served as part of the grand entrance into where the Exposition was being held, which stretched about a kilometer and included Champs de Mars, the Invalides and parts of the Seine River.
|A view of the Exposition Universelle (1889 - Paris, France)|
A major part of the Exposition was the Galerie des Machines, designed by architect Ferdinand Dutert and engineer Victor Contamin. This building was also monumental in size, beauty as well as despite the aesthetic qualities was also highly functional. The Galerie des Machines was built principally of iron and glass, and reached a colossal length of 1,270 feet. By the end of the 19th century, the grandiose proportions of this display hall proved to be the largest unobstructed floor area of any building. Without doubt, the Galerie des Machines proved to be the ideal setting in which to show the world the massive engines, transformers, dynamos, and other engineering wonders of the age.
Despite being constructed primarily of iron, the Galerie des Machines exhibited an apparent lightness executed through the way in which the bases of the supporting arches touched the ground. This structural innovativeness, defied the "conventional, rational notion that the base was the principal load-bearing component of any structure; here that role was seemingly reversed. The hinges allowed small movements between the foot of the frames and the foundation but made the arches statically determinate. Thus, stresses and reactions at the supports could be calculated beforehand and were only slightly influenced by movements of the supports or thermally induced dimensional variations."
While the Eiffel Tower managed to escape the destruction which it was to face after its twenty year lease had expired, the Galerie des Machines was not as fortunate and was destroyed in 1910. The Eiffel Tower has come to represent the time in which it was built: the Belle Époque. "This identification of the object with its moment of origin has lasted because of its positive association as a time when Paris played a leading role in creating a certain kind of modern, leisure-oriented spectacular urban culture. Its enduring significance as an icon highlights the great tension between the positive French embrace of progress and a more nostalgic feeling for a time when France really was at the cutting edge of technology and engineering which the Tower represents."