THE RISE OF THE EIFFEL TOWER
The plan to build a tower 3000metres was conceived as part of preparations for the World Fair of 1889. The idea was to study the possibility of erecting an iron tower on the Champ – de – Mars. The iron tower was expected to have a square box 125metres across and 300metres tall. Among 107 projects presented, it was that of Entrepreneur Gustave Eiffel, Engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, and Architect Stephen Sauvestre that was accepted.
Nouguier and Koechlin came up with the idea of constructing a tall tower in the shape of a pylon. This tower would consist four columns of lattice work girders, separated at the base and coming together at the top. The tower was an extension of this principle up to a height of 300 metres which was equivalent to the symbolic figure of 1000feet. On September 18 1884, Eiffel registered a patent “for a new configuration allowing for metal supports and pylons capable of exceeding a height of 300 metres.”
In order to make the project more acceptable to public opinion, Nouguier and Koechlin commissioned Sauvestre to work on the project’s appearance.
Sauvestre proposed the following;
- Stonework pedestals for the legs.
- Monumental arches to connect columns to the first level.
- Large glass-walled halls on each level.
- A bulb-shaped design for the top and ornamental elements that will decorate the whole structure.
His proposal was not implemented in totality, but the large arches at the base was constructed along with some few other features.
The assembly of the supports began on July 1st 1887 and was completed twenty-two months later.
All the elements were readied in Eiffel’s factory located at Levallois-Perret on the outskirts of Paris. A team of constructors who had worked on the Great Metal Viaduct project were responsible for the 150 to 300 workers on the site assembling the monumental masterpiece.
THE RIVET WORKERS
Rivets were used to hold together the metal pieces of the tower. A four-man team assembled each rivet; one to heat the rivet up, another holds the rivet in place, one shapes it while the fourth man uses a sledgehammer to beat it into shape. At first the metal pieces were assembled in the factory using bolts, but these were replaced one after the other with these thermally assembled rivets.
The upright of the tower rests on concrete foundations placed a few metres below ground level on top of a layer of compacted gravel. On the Seine side of the construction, the workers applied watertight metal caissons and injected compressed air in order for them to work below the water level.
Wooden scaffolding was used to assemble the tower with the help of small steam cranes mounted on the tower itself. It took only five months to build the foundation, while assembling the metal pieces required twenty-one. On the narrow platform at the top, Eiffel received his decoration from the Legion of honour.
The Eiffel Tower had a lot of critics while under construction with some christening the edifice “The Tower of Babel”. But all these criticism soon faded off as the unveiling was witnessed by two million visitors at the World Fair in 1889.
- Project kick off – 26th January 1887
- Pillar Mounting – 1st July 1887
- First Floor – 1st April 1887
- Second Floor – 14th August 1888
- Top Assembly Achievement – 31st March 1889
The first digging work started on the 26th of January 1887. The tower was completed in record time (2 years, 2 months and 5 days). This was established as a veritable technical feat.
- 18,038 metallic parts.
- 5,300 workshop designs.
- 50 engineers and designers.
- 2,500,000 rivets.
- 7,300 tonnes of iron.
- 60 tonnes of paint.
- 5 lifts.