Beyond the Icon
The Eiffel Tower, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, stands as a symbol of romance, architecture and France itself. Built over a century ago, it has captivated the hearts and minds of millions of visitors from around the globe. While most people are familiar with its striking appearance and its role as a symbol of Paris, numerous fascinating facts about the Eiffel Tower remain relatively unknown. In this article, we will delve into 15 lesser-known facts about this magnificent iron structure.
1. Gustave Eiffel's Design
The Eiffel Tower is often associated with its namesake, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. However, it was actually designed by one of his senior engineers, Maurice Koechlin, and his chief architect, Émile Nouguier. Gustave Eiffel's company, Eiffel et Cie, was responsible for the structural engineering and construction.
2. Temporary Structure
When it was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World's Fair), the Eiffel Tower was intended to be a temporary structure. Many Parisians opposed its construction and wanted it dismantled after the event. However, it was retained because of its value as a communication tower.
3. Eiffel Tower as a Giant Thermometer
The iron structure of the Eiffel Tower expands in the heat and contracts in the cold. Consequently, its height can vary by up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) due to temperature changes. It effectively serves as a giant thermometer for Paris.
4. Secret Apartment at the Top
Gustave Eiffel had a secret apartment at the top of the tower, which was not known to the public. It was a cozy space where he entertained friends and conducted scientific experiments. Today, it has been transformed into a museum, offering visitors a glimpse into the tower's history.
5. Color Evolution
The Eiffel Tower was originally painted red, then a yellow-ochre color and finally the iconic "Eiffel Tower Brown" or "Eiffel Tower Grey" that we see today. It is repainted every seven years to protect it from corrosion.
6. Wind Resistance
The Eiffel Tower is designed to sway slightly in the wind, which allows it to withstand strong gusts without sustaining damage. The sway can be up to 15 centimeters at the top.
7. Lightning Strikes
Lightning strikes the Eiffel Tower about 10 times each year. It's well protected against lightning strikes, as it is equipped with lightning rods and a grounding system to safely channel the electrical discharge.
8. Hidden Staircases
In addition to the famous elevators, there are hidden staircases in the Eiffel Tower. These staircases are used by maintenance workers and are not accessible to the public. There are 1,665 steps in total, making it a daunting climb to the top.
9. Nighttime Illumination
The Eiffel Tower sparkles with more than 20,000 light bulbs every night, creating a stunning visual spectacle. This practice began in 1985 as part of the city's bicentennial celebration of the French Revolution.
10. Guinness World Records
At the time of its completion, the Eiffel Tower held the title of the world's tallest man-made structure. It held this record for an impressive 41 years until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York City in 1930.
11. Graffiti Artists Scale the Tower
Despite its strict security measures, several daring graffiti artists have managed to scale the Eiffel Tower and leave their marks at the top. Their illegal escapades have added an unusual layer of history to the iconic landmark.
12. Eiffel Tower's Radio Broadcasts
The Eiffel Tower has been home to numerous radio broadcasting antennas since the early 20th century. It played a crucial role in the development of radio communication and was used for long-distance transmissions.
13. Replica Towers Worldwide
There are over 30 replicas of the Eiffel Tower around the world. The most famous of these replicas is the one in Las Vegas, Nevada. While these towers may not match the original in height, they serve as homages to the iconic Parisian landmark.
14. Iron Framework Versus Mass
Despite its colossal appearance, the Eiffel Tower's iron framework is relatively lightweight. It weighs approximately 7,300 tons, which is less than the mass of the air it displaces.
15. Eiffel Tower's Role in World War I
During World War I, the Eiffel Tower played a critical role in intercepting enemy radio communications. The top of the tower was used to intercept German military messages, aiding the Allied forces in their efforts.
The Eiffel Tower is not just a towering masterpiece of engineering and a symbol of love; it is also a treasure trove of hidden facts and historical significance. Its enduring appeal lies in its breathtaking aesthetics and ability to continuously surprise and educate those who visit or study it. As we gaze upon this magnificent structure, we are reminded that even the most famous landmarks can still hold secrets waiting to be discovered by curious minds.
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