‘A Giddy, Ridiculous Tower’: Historic Controversy over the Eiffel Tower

‘A Giddy, Ridiculous Tower’: Historic Controversy over the Eiffel Tower
“Imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous Tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of Les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream.” – Artists against the Eiffel Tower, Le Temps 1887  The Eiffel Tower, one of the most iconic structures in the world, was not always embraced with open arms. In fact, its construction was met with significant controversy and criticism. Notable critics in France attacked the Eiffel Tower as it was being built, with some going as far as to predict that it would be the ruination of Paris.  The 10th World Exhibition, held in 1889, marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution and to celebrate, a competition was launched to “study the possibility of erecting an iron tower with a square base on Champ de Mars, 410 feet wide and 984 feet high.” Of the 107 projects proposed, Gustave Eiffel’s concept won. The primary purpose of the tower’s construction was to serve as the entrance arch to the exhibition and showcase France’s industrial and technological achievements to the world.  Blueprint of the Eiffel Tower by one of its main engineers, Maurice Koechlin (ca. 1884). Authorization given by Koechlin Family. Photo: Maurice Koechlin, Émile Nouguier/Wikimedia Commons

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Having graduated with a degree in French and Dutch, Elinor has always loved France and when in Paris, she can be found either in a cosy café or reading up about the etymology of street names while on a stroll...