The emblematic symbol of Paris is a romantic symbol across the world. At its very beginning when it was first inaugurated in 1889 for the World’s fair the metallic tower was subject to strong controversy and it was expected that it would be torn down after the fair. This, however, is not an exception, as that was the “rule” for the buildings of the World’s fair that were constructed on Champs de Mars, their destiny was to be torn down after the fair.
For the Eiffel tower though things were different, as even during its construction a strong committee called the “Committee of the Three hundred”, a representative for each meter of the tower, were trying to persuade the authorities and the general public to stop the works on the Eiffel tower. The committee was formed by artists, painters, sculptors, and other artistic figures. The reason was mainly aesthetic, as this committee did not believe in the beauty of the structure.
It is true that at the time, it was by far the tallest building dominating the beautiful Parisian landscape. The tower and its massive metallic structure were now looking down at the Haussmanian buildings, gardens and luxurious palaces. Definitely a shock for most of the artists at the times, including very prominent figures like Guy de Maupassant, who were focusing their work to create absolute harmony between the different buildings. Having this big, odd landmark, that was designed and is being built by an engineer and not an architect, was definitely not welcome at the time. Ironically enough, the leader of the protest group of three hundred was Charles Garnier, who was also part of the selection committee that first validated the project … and he didn’t protest at the time. But we will put that on the uncomprehensive mysteries of the human behavior!
The committee did not succeed in stopping the construction work and the Eiffel was inaugurated in 1889. However, the controversy continued onto whether it should be scrapped down after the fair or it should continue to live. Gustave Eiffel built the case that the Eiffel tower is a very useful and strong scientific experimentation tool. Not surprising for an engineer. And it was mainly this reason that convinced the French authorities at the time (in 1903) to keep the tower. Thus the tower lived as it has proven its societal utility for the French society as the experimentations mainly focused on how to harness civil works facing extreme weather conditions. The height of the tower and its proximity to major French labs helped perform a number of experimentations and thus proved its utility.
On another occasion, during the German occupation of Paris in 1944, Hitler ordered the local German military governor to tear the tower down along with other Parisian monuments. Hitler was definitely jealous of the beauty of the city and recognized its cultural value and wanted to scrap it to diminish the French power. Nevertheless, the local German governer disobeyed the orders and refused to destroy the tower. Another witness of the complexity of human behaviors where war, destruction and havoc left the place for some artistic breath of hope.
The tower thus did beat the odds on two occasions, first by its technical capacity and then by its artistic beauty. As years go by, we continue to discover different facets of this exceptional tower, including the fact that it grows during summer! Next time when in Paris, enjoy visiting major landmarks with our local tour guide.