The Eiffel tower is an engineering masterpiece and a major tourist attraction in Paris
The paper gives a summary of events that took place during the construction of the tower. It also analyzes how the structure was built, the engineering knowledge deployed, and inherent challenges that engineers had to deal with before the completion of the project. Similarly, there is also a detailed account of changes that would be made if the tower was to be constructed today. The essay touches on various aspects of the construction and offers comprehensive information pertinent to the Eiffel tower.
The Eiffel tower is an exhibit of the Paris exposition and its construction was a commemoration of the centennial of the French revolution. The tower was named in honor of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel who was the owner of the company that designed and built the tower. Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier were structural engineers behind the construction. The tower is 324 meters tall and 300 meters without the tower at the top. It is home to more than 120 antennas that broadcast radio and television signals. In fact, during the World War I, the tower was being used by the French military for wireless communication with ships in the Atlantic Ocean. The tower has a lot to offer and is still the centerpiece of Paris’ city scape. The paper gives a detailed account of the summary of events that took place while the Eiffel tower was under construction. It also touches on materials, methods, equipment, and labor used for construction as well as problems encountered. The paper also accounts for major construction changes that would take place if the tower was to be constructed today.
Summary of Events
The Eiffel tower was constructed in Paris, France, and is located in Champ de Mars at the seventh arrondissement. The erection of the tower commenced on January 28, 1887, and was meant to be an entrance arch to the world fair (Pezzi 67). The Eiffel tower was completed on March 15, 1889, and its official opening was on March 3 of the same year. It is managed by Societe d’Exploitation de laTour Eiffel (SETE). The Eiffel tower was the epitome of modern science and denoted France’s gratitude (Herve%u0301 and Bergdoll 56). The Eiffel tower was initially designed to be built in Barcelona, but the city rejected the plan because they thought it might end up like an eyesore. Eiffel was thus forced to take his project elsewhere and was fortunate to find the home of his idea in Paris.
The tower symbolizes contemporary French engineering that was applicable at that time. The impetus behind the French structural engineering stemmed from the industrial exposition, which was an epitome of French industrialization efforts. Similarly, the Eiffel tower was also a commemorative momentum that marked one hundred years of the French revolution. The aim of the revolution was to eliminate the divine right of kings marking the end of dictatorship through the instigation of a democratic system of governance (Herve%u0301 and Bergdoll 66). Therefore, most French officials wanted to have a fresh memory of the anniversary by erecting a beautiful edifice.
Construction of the tower used latticed wrought iron as a scientific demonstration that metal can be lighter than stone and still offer the same amount of strength. Similarly, the tower is affected by direct sunlight, which heats metals causing it to expand by about eighteen centimeters. The total weight of the tower is ten thousand tones and has about five billion lights. While being constructed, it was understood that the structure was temporary and would be removed after 20 years (Pezzi 77). However, its looming height saved it from extinction. In 1910, Paris renewed Eiffel’s concession because it was proving to be a useful structure for telegraph transmission. During the period when the tower was being set up, France was a country of immigration for political refugees from Germany, Russia, and Italy. France was also sustaining heavy wartime losses and had a post-war baby boom, which increased the country’s population.
When the Paris World Fair was organized by the French government, more than one hundred different designs were presented and the World Fair committee chose an open lattice wrought iron tower. The design was innovative and was created by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel who was a well-known civil engineer (Pezzi 78). When the tower was opened to the city, it was an instant success and Eiffel was able to reimburse his creditors within a period of one year. However, after twenty years, the lease for the land expired and its control shifted from Eiffel to the city of Paris. The land upon which the structure was constructed was too valuable and would have been put in better use. This meant that the tower had to be brought down and turned into scrap metals. However, after the world war, the tower’s lease was renewed for seventy years and tourists continued to flock to the engineering masterpiece.
Eifel was also confronted by major critics even when the tower construction was on-going. For instance, a French mathematician predicted that the tower would collapse once its height surpassed seven hundred and forty eight feet. Other experts were of the opinion that lightning rods would jeopardize the aquatic life in the river Seine (Tissandier 87). In addition, after the engineers were given the green light to put up the tower, several artists were protesting against its construction and were referring to the tower as a monstrosity. However, after its completion they turned around to refer to the tower as a genius engineering construction. Another major event revolving around the tower is that when Germans entered Paris during the Second World War, lift cables were cut. This made it difficult for them to navigate the tower as they were forced to use the stairs (Pezzi 93).
Construction of the Eiffel Tower
The construction of the tower started in January 1887. The construction materials were made and designed at the Eiffel factory. The corner edges were engraved on supporting blocks, which were joined together by a wall (Tissandier 77). After the tower construction had started, it took six months for stable foundations to be laid down after which the iron lattice work commenced. The transportation of materials was enabled by cranes, which were built with four-angled legs. The cranes were powered by steam, while iron pieces were transported to the site using horse-drawn wagons. The head architect for the project was Stephen Sauvestre, while the main contractor was Compagnie des and Etablissements Eiffel. The initial outline of the tower was described as a great pylon with four lattice girders (Herve%u0301 and Bergdoll 63). The girders used in constructing the tower were not permitted to weigh more than three tones. Small cranes were also used for lifting construction objects. Eiffel acknowledged that the use of small components was faster and safer and reduced the chances of accidents.
The entire structure would be reinforced by metal trusses strategically placed at varying intervals. In addition, 7,300 tones of iron were used to support the structure (Tissandier 97). The iron was made from pig iron, which exhibits a higher tensile strength as opposed to porous iron. Sauvestre added decorative arches as well as other embellishments to the design. The Eiffel tower was the tallest man-made structure even though the title was short-lived after the Chrysler building was put up in New York (Herve%u0301 and Bergdoll 68). The main pillars of the Eiffel tower are oriented with four cardinal points of the compass.
As the tower was rising, it became difficult to transport materials to the top. Eiffel came up with a new technology of installing creeper cranes on the sloping tracks inside the piers. The cranes were uniquely designed to rotate at 360 degrees and lift construction materials to the highest platforms (Tissandier 99). By 1888, the tower had grown and taken form whereby curious spectators were admiring its shape.
The construction of the tower utilized a small labor force as it required about three hundred steel workers. However, the construction site had only one hundred and twenty one men, while 50 engineers designed and produced 5,300 blueprints of the tower (Herve%u0301 and Bergdoll 83). The iron workers were producing more than eighteen thousand iron parts to be assembled during the tower construction.
Major Challenges Encountered During Construction
The major problem that Eiffel had was shielding the tower from the wind. This is because the lattice beams used in bridge construction would not be applicable. As an alternative, the engineers opted to use piers engraved with incurving edges. In fact, the curvature of the uprights was specifically designed to negate the impact that wind would cause (Herve%u0301 and Bergdoll 76). Today, the tower can withstand winds of up to 100 mph. In fact, the tower sways gently in extremely windy conditions. However, there is always an engineer responsible for monitoring telecommunications equipment. The engineering deployed in this structure ensures that it withstands movements that are five times beyond these produced by the strongest wind. The risks of its collapse for wind-related reasons are, therefore, minimal.
The structure became an engineering masterpiece because it had never swayed for more than nine centimeters even during the strongest winds. The design of the Eiffel tower was always under constant engineering review to avoid the detrimental effects of any construction mishap. The other challenge was encountered when soil samples proved that the land to the North and West was soft and mucky (Pezzi 87). This was unlike the land to the South and East, which was firm and suitable for construction purposes. The problem was severe because the lands to the northern and western parts of the site were vulnerable to a constant threat of flooding. The area was also close to the river (Herve%u0301 and Bergdoll 84). The solution to this problem was to establish a system that would inject compressed air and use water-tight metal caissons that would enable them to work below the water levels.
This had an implication of forcing workers to climb down into a caisson, which looked like an underground room and work below the level of the Seine. However, the caisson was loosening up the soil and pickaxes had to be used in breaking up the soil. Quick drying cement was poured in every hole once digging had been completed. For reinforcement, the engineers topped cement with limestone and added an iron stone for further stability. By April 1888, the tower’s structure was beginning to form as its foundation was complete (LeBoutillier 42).
The engineers had carefully planned the construction to guarantee safety to all the workers. However, the working environment was challenging because the workforce was working on a unique design which would be the tallest structure in the world (Duffy par 4). Therefore, they were compelled to use new equipment, which was being used for the first time. Throughout the summer months, workers were working twelve hours daily to ensure timely completion of the tower. Speed and efficiency were of essence.
During lunch breaks, workers were wasting too much time going up and down the tower. This led to the construction of a canteen at the first tower level. Another serious challenge was installation of an elevator system and this aspect of the construction made Eiffel nervous. The bottom line was that the structure would attract many visitors and most of them would be reluctant to take the stairs (Duffy par 3). The elevators system called for a powerful hydraulic technology even though Eiffel’s knowledge of hydraulics was overtaken by events. The elevator installation was sub-contracted to an American company as French companies were apprehensive to undertake the task. The system was also complicated because unlike buildings the elevator had to travel on curved tracks, which were aligned on different angles. A straight track was not possible. They also had to carry many people and any error or miscalculation would jeopardize visitors’ lives (LeBoutillier 52). The contract was eventually given to Otis Brothers and Company.
The completion of the tower culminated in the installation of spotlights that had an eye-catching illumination. An electric beam was also installed and was meant to flash after set intervals. The tower has also been decorated by light bulbs, which gives the tower an eye catching illumination, especially at night (Pezzi 47).
The Eiffel tower was eventually painted a reddish brown color, which was applied in lighter shades, thus making the tower look taller. Even though visitors were allowed to admire the tower and explore the engineering, they were denied access to a spiral staircase that led to Eiffel’s private apartment.
How the Eiffel Tower Would Appear if It Were Built Today
The construction of the Eiffel tower was successful notwithstanding the technology used then. However, the contemporary construction industry has changed significantly and the tower would have major changes if it was constructed today. For instance, the engineers had a hard time during the installation of elevators because the tracks were slanting in design (LeBoutillier 117). Additionally, the engineers did not have enough knowledge and expertise to set up the lifts at such high levels given that the tower was the highest structure back then. In fact, this explains why the lifts installation was subcontracted by the French engineers.
The lifts were meant to provide access to the top of the tower for visitors who would not be willing to use the staircase (Duffy par 6). If the tower was constructed today, the engineers would bypass the lifts and deploy the escalator technology to replace the stair case. An escalator is a moving staircase devised for carrying individuals between floors of a building. Unlike elevators, escalators are always on the move and this would prevent pedestrian traffic, while people are waiting for the lifts to go up and down. Similarly, escalators can save space because they can be placed in the same physical space as a stair case (LeBoutillier 112). An elevator system is electrically operated so are escalators.
During the construction of the Eiffel tower, the prevalent technology of levels allowed engineers to use small cranes to transport materials to higher areas of the tower. However, if it were built today, engineers would deploy cranes that use their hosting power to make them taller. The efficiency of such a modern system is guaranteed because engineers would no longer use creeper planes. Another technology that would be equally useful is the use of tower cranes, which can rise hundreds of feet in the air and lift heavy construction materials. A tower crane can also grow as the structure grows without tipping over as it uses its hoisting power.
Similarly, the fact that it can be externally placed gives engineers more space to focus on the structure in progress without the creeper craned interference (Pezzi 98). At the top, the tower crane has a slewing unit, which enables the crane to rotate in either direction through a gear and motor. The puddle iron used in constructing the tower is also subject to thermal expansion, which increases and decreases the length of the tower depending on the environment. The temperature differences might also result in differential volume changes, which might lead to cracks. Today, the tower would be constructed using a formwork of thermally insulating materials. Where concrete might be required, engineers can either increase the tensile strength of concrete or keep insulating formwork for a longer direction.
The reduction of maximum internal temperature can also be managed by delaying the onset of cooling. When the tower was put up, the wind intensity was measured by an engineer by putting down the magnitude of any unexpected variations.
Today, the wind intensity would be measured by a laser alignment system, which provides live data (Duffy par 5). This would ensure accuracy because a laser provides live data and the user can watch real-time records. However, before the installation of the laser alignment system, the engineer would have to determine the number of lasers needed and where lasers can be mounted.
The other decision is whether the laser should be permanent or temporary and whether the difference in portability will affect the real-time data. The Eiffel tower also needs to be repainted regularly to keep it clean and neat. However, the painting requires a lot of work and it is also affected by prevailing weather conditions. Today, the tower can be easily repainted through high-rise painting services, which utilize scaffolding, rigging, and suspended access equipment.
The Eiffel tower commemorates the French revolution and denotes an architectural masterpiece. It is a premier tourist attraction built for the Paris World Fair in 1889 and has been a famous icon in the world since then. Initially, the tower was not intended to be permanent and was to be dismantled. However, it was a major tourist attraction and home to radio and television signals, which showed its importance to the society. It was the tallest world’s building at the time of its construction. Today, the tower is a successful business affair and is financed by admission receipts. The tower has also held promises for scientific researches and its great height has made it suitable to conduct experiments pertinent to temperature, pressure, and radio telegraphy. The major reason why the Eiffel tower exists nowadays is because of its radio transmissions and status of a tangible illustration of the Paris exposition.