The Eiffel Tower In Color
At 1,050 feet tall (320 metres), the tower is comparable to an 81 story building. It held the title of being the tallest man-made structure in the world for 41 years. New York City is well known to have impressive skyscrapers, and the Chrysler Building’s completion in 1930 placed it on top as the tallest title holder. An antenna was placed atop the Eiffel Tower in 1957 and the title was recaptured.
Today the Eiffel Tower stands well below many other structures in height, and comes in second even in France, as the Millau Viaduct is the tallest in that country.
There are stairs for the hardy individual to ascend that reaches the first and second levels, but nine lifts (elevators) are also available. These levels have restaurants and are great stopping places to visit before ascending to the third level, accessible only by the lifts. There are stairs to this level, but the public is not allowed to use them.
The design was actually created by Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier. They were engineers working for the company, Compaignie des Establissments Eiffel, and were procured to draw a plan depicting a giant structure that could be used as the centerpiece for the upcoming 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) celebrating the French Revolution centennial.
In 1884 Koechlin outlined a drawing with four lattice girders spaced wide apart from each other at the base and narrowing gradually until meeting at the top. This triangular shape was joined by trusses of metal, placed at determined intervals to assure structural soundness. Gustave Eiffel, the owner of the building company, was not impressed at first, but advanced the project to be studied.
Koechilin and Nouguier needed more input to get a completed design. The company’s head of architecture, Stephen Sauvestre was asked to join the task. He envisioned a pavilion of glass on the first level with other additions, and changed the design to include arches at the base to enhance appearance. Their collaborated efforts produced a sound building plan and they jointly took out a patent on the design. This design with improvements excited Eiffel and he bought their patent rights.
Getting funding for the project took careful planning and campaigning by Eiffel. He presented his proposals to the Societe des Ingienieurs Civils, dedicating the tower as a monument to great scientific accomplishments of the 1700s, and for the Revolution of 1789. The World’s Fair of 1889 was quickly approaching and it was not until 1886 that a budget was passed for the Exposition. Many entries for a centerpiece attraction to the Exposition were studied by a commission, but Eiffel’s design easily won out because of his organized and detailed proposal.
The ensuing contract awarded a one and a half million franc grant to Eiffel against the cost to construct the tower, which was estimated to cost six and a half million francs. It also gave Eiffel the right to receive all commercial income from the tower during and Exhibition and afterwards for twenty years.
Oddly enough, the largest tourist attraction in France was not always thought of as a world icon. It faced mounds of opposition from many notable citizens held in high esteem, who thought the tower to be a ridiculous waste, a barbaric shadow casted over Paris, and would denigrate other more sacred monuments. Many of the nay-sayers would fade when after two years, two months, and five days, the tower was completed. The twenty-year life that it originally was to have, was extended primarily because of its usefulness as a military radio post in 1903. It transmitted wireless signals all the way to Arlington, Virginia to the United States Naval Observatory in 1913 to calculate the longitude difference between Washington, DC and Paris, France. Today, radio and television stations have their signals broadcast from the top of the tower.
The Eiffel Tower faced destruction during World War II when Nazi Germany occupied France. Hitler’s visits to Paris were spent on the ground because French resisters cut the lift cables. As allies were approaching to liberate Paris, Hitler order the tower destroyed, but the military governor of Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz disobeyed the order.
Beams of light, since 1958, have illuminated the Eiffel Tower projected from the inside and directed upwards. The golden lights which have become a romantic view on a Paris night, was invented by Pierre Bideau and installed on the Eiffel Tower in 1985. The illumination consisted of 336 lighting projectors with yellow-orange sodium lamps. A beacon was added in 1999 along with sparkling lights. It took 25 mountain climbers a period of 5 months to do the installation. Changing light bulbs is a monumental task too, with 20,000 bulbs having to be replaced one at a time.
A Real Paint Job
It costs over $5,000,000 to repaint the tower, which is done every seven years. Why seven years? It is estimated that over 55 tons of the tower’s paint erodes in a seven year period. Future paintings are determined by a poll on the first floor of the tower. Consoles are set up to host the public votes for a color to use on the next painting.
How is the Eiffel Tower painted? You would think with some high tech, specially designed, super sprayer developed specially for large bulky iron works. But, that would be the wrong answer, as every crevice, beam, nut and bolt are re-painted by hand.
What color is the Eiffel Tower in real life? Three different shades of a color are used with the darkest shade on the bottom and the lightest shade on the top. Paint colors are sometimes changed, but to accentuate the lighting of the tower at night, a bronze shade is currently the semi-permanent choice.
Buckets and brushes, and a lot of them, are the tools used to paint the Paris jewel. Previous colors of paint used were red, yellow, and burnt orange. Overseers decided in 1968 that the current color of brown suited the Paris skyline the best. The last painting had a 25-member crew, using 35 miles of climbing rope. They used special-ordered paint from Norway called ‘Eiffel Tower Brown’. In 2009 the paint contract was awarded to Jotun of Norway. How much did they use? An estimated 66 tons (NOT gallons) of a lead-free, silicone-based paint that has its own patent. The job took 18 months requiring agility and stamina enough to negotiate the dangerous lofty ironworks. And because a method with well-proven results is usually the best, the painters have always implemented the same application techniques used since 1889 with small, circular brushes.