Eiffel tower was almost torn down !

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.

Valencia – a modern architecture story

The city of Valencia is not the first option for travellers heading to Spain. Valencia is in competition with major attractions in Madrid, Barcelona or Andalusia (think of Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba or Malaga)  or major beach destinations like Palma de Mallorca. It is true that there are many, many, interesting destinations in Spain. Nevertheless, the city has been striving to exist on the Spanish tourism map and the official statistics show a significant growth of the number of travellers heading to Valencia.

Either from neighbouring countries like France or Italy , or from Germany and Turkey, the overall number of tourists has been constatly increasing. An interesting phenomenen though, is that approcimately 40% of the touristic demand in Valencia comes from… Spain,  internal tourism. This is a very good indicator that shows a great internal interest from within the country and that it has something different to provide to curious travellers.

In 1957, the city was the scene of a devastating flood that caused major casualities (approx; 80 persons) and lots of material losses. In response to the disaster, the Spanish government decided to put in place the Plan Sur. A plan that “simply” consisted on drying and rerouting the city’s main river, the Turia. Part of the funding of the project was made possible via selling postal stamps as shown below.

Rewriting history

After the river was rerouted, it left the old riverbed, a rich soil at the heart of Valencia’s city center, known as the green river. The map below shows the green river and the new river bed. The original Plan Sur divided the green river into 18 areas, each one with its own flavour and cultural identity. However, the central position of these plots made them always subject to controversy, and obviously source of confrontation between different interests.

Long discussions, and political clashes between different governments and parties, took place onto what to do with all this land. The first iterations were leading to building a new ring road/highway that can serve all of Valencia’s nehgbourhood’s thanks to its central position. Luckily, the final decision led to the creation of several architectural landmarks, including for example the City of Art and Science. A magnificent landmark that is now considered one of the twelve treasures of Spain.

This memorable decision shaped Valencia’s personnality. The creation of art, culture and science from the ashes of a deadly flood. The implementation of the plan took more than 30 years, but significantly increased the city’s attractivness, making it one of the major destinations  for spanish inbound travellers.

When visiting this city you feel these vibes of hope, renewal, arts and amazing modern architecture landmarks. Diffinetely a very interesting city, worth visiting and more importantly, it sets a great example of how challenges can be transformed into great opportunities through string decisive moves, such as rerouting a river and recreating a city’s destiny.