Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Eiffel Tower Celebrates 120 Years!

120 years ago today, March 31, 1889, Gustav Eiffel inaugurated La Tour Eiffel. He climbed her 1,710 steps and planted the French flag at her peak, kicking off the 1889 World’s Fair.

This year, the city of Paris has numerous plans to celebrate the birthday of France’s most iconic symbol, a structure that was not supposed to have survived more than 20 years.

The 19th Repainting of the Tower
In his book, The 300-meter Tower, Eiffel wrote that the only way to insure the longevity of iron is to protect it from rust. The best way to do this is with paint. Thus, every seven years since her creation, the Iron Lady has received a new dress comprised of 60 tons worth of paint.

Once upon a time, she was red. Then she became orange. Today, she is bronze, the hues of which are lightened little-by-little from bottom to top to create, for the viewer, a uniform perception of color.

Exhibition: Gustave Eiffel, le magician du fer (the Magician of Iron)
To be held at the Paris City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) from 7 May to 29 August, 2009, this exhibition will commemorate the life of one of the world’s most celebrated engineers and enterprising visionaries. It will be organized in four parts: Eiffel in his time, Eiffel the engineer, Eiffel the builder, and Eiffel the researcher and scientist.

Exhibition: Epopée tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower Legend)
This exhibition will provide on-site itineraries focused around eight themes, each one its own independent mini-exhibition. They will be located on the first level of the Tower and in the Tower stairways from 15 May through 31 December, 2009.

Concours d’Architecture Eiffel, 2008-09 (Architecture Contest)
Perhaps you heard that for her 120th birthday, the Eiffel Tower would be sporting a marvelous new hat? Well, though that may have been the hope of the Serero Architecture Agency, it is not a reality, at least not as of this writing.

What actually happened was that La Societe d’exploitation de La Tour Eiffel sponsored a competition for young architects to design a complement to the Tower structure. Simultaneously, the Serero Architecture Agency proposed a plan to enlarge the third level platform from 280 to 580 square meters by attaching a carbon Kevlar platform to the existing Tower framework. On the occasion of the Iron Lady’s 120th birthday, the contest’s five winning designs will be announced and 91 of the proposed projects will be presented. The five winners will share a prize of 45,000 Euros.

I quite like the Serero hat! How about you?

Le Journal du Dimanche, 29 mars 2009.

Painting of Eiffel Tower under construction, 1888, by Paul-Louis Delance, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Painting of Eiffel Tower, by Georges Seurat, 1889, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of Gustave Eiffel, by Felix Nadar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Drawing of the Eiffel Tower concept by one of the main architects, Maurice Koechlin, courtesy of the Koechlin family and Wikimedia Commons.
Concept designs for the Iron's Lady's birthday hat, by Serero Architects, http://www.serero.com/index_en.htm


  1. Hi Sarah,

    I am so happy to have your blog in my life now.
    Todays post on the Eiffel Tower is wonderful...thanks for all the great information.



  2. Thank you, Jules! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I look forward to meeting you here again, soon.

    All the best,

  3. Sarah,
    Really beautiful photos. No matter how many times I have been to Paris, always interesting to read about 'the tower.'

  4. Sarah,

    I,too, love all your photos. Thanks for the interesting posts.

  5. Hi Sarah,

    I have enjoyed reading your blog. Did you know that my maiden name, "Belanger" is written on the Eiffel tower? Not everyone can claim that, eh?

    It is one of the 72 names on the Eiffel Tower, which is a list of French scientists, engineers and some other notable people engraved there in recognition of their contributions by Gustave Eiffel. The engravings are on the sides of the tower under the first balcony. This engraving was painted over at the beginning of the twentieth century and restored in 1986–1987.

    Jean-Baptiste-Charles-Joseph Bélanger was a mathmetician and hydraulic engineer. Whew! Good thing he didn't write his whole name on the tower! It is a bit long!

  6. Jeanne,

    That is the coolest story I've ever heard! Thanks for sharing it. Next time I'm at the Tower I will be sure to hunt it up.

    What fun!