(CTN News) – Gustave Eiffel, the visionary French engineer, left an indelible mark on the world with his legacy of 700 constructions spanning 30 countries.
His most iconic creation, the Eiffel Tower, stands tall as a symbol of Paris and remains one of the world’s most-visited attractions.
However, the tower’s existence and its association with Eiffel were not always certain, and its journey from initial skepticism to global fame is a fascinating tale.
Eiffel’s Reluctance and Collaborative Design
The Eiffel Tower wasn’t initially embraced by its namesake. Designed by Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nougier, colleagues at Eiffel’s construction company, Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel, the structure failed to captivate Eiffel’s enthusiasm.
To refine the design, Eiffel engaged his chief architect, Stephen Sauvestre, who played a pivotal role in altering the number of floors and adjusting the foundations.
The resulting patent was a collaboration among Eiffel, Koechlin, and Nougier.
Eventually, Eiffel secured the copyrights, and the tower bore his name, though the credit could have gone to his colleagues.
Critics, including notable figures like Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas, disparaged the design, labeling it a “tragic lamppost” and a “disgrace of Paris.”
Despite initial opposition, Eiffel’s business acumen and engineering skills prevailed. He took on a significant portion of the financing, securing usage rights for 20 years, and construction began.
The Eiffel Tower, consisting of 18,000 individual parts, quickly captured the public’s curiosity.
The Evolution of the Eiffel Tower: From Demolition Plans to Scientific Purpose
Gustave Eiffel, born in 1832, inherited business savvy from his mother, Catherine Moneuse, who had successfully invested in the coal business.
Eiffel’s professional journey began under Charles Nepveu, a civil engineering contractor, and he swiftly rose to prominence, managing major construction projects in his mid-20s.
His personal life intertwined with his professional success, as he married Marie Gaudelet at the suggestion of his mother.
Eiffel’s constructions extended globally, from churches in the Philippines and Peru to the Statue of Liberty’s iron framework in New York. Despite initial plans to demolish the Eiffel Tower after Eiffel’s 20-year permit expired, he sought a scientific purpose for the structure.
Establishing meteorological and astronomical observation stations, along with wireless telegraph connections, justified the tower’s existence. During World War I, it served as a strategic observation post, and the Nazis chose not to destroy it in 1944.
Post-World War II, the Eiffel Tower became a canvas for daring stunts by athletes, from mountaineers to tightrope acrobats. Today, it stands as a top tourist attraction in Paris, although concerns about corrosion emerged in 2022.
French magazine Marianne highlighted the urgent need for an overhaul to prevent potential damage, prompting questions about the tower’s future.
Gustave Eiffel’s legacy extends beyond the towering structure that bears his name, encompassing a lifetime of groundbreaking engineering, business prowess, and a vision that defied initial criticism.
As the Eiffel Tower faces potential challenges, its historical significance and cultural impact endure, inviting reflection on the intersection of art, engineering, and enduring legacy.