Watch the Building of the Eiffel Tower in Timelapse Animation

“They didn’t want it but he built it any­way” — The Pix­ies, “Alec Eif­fel

When the Eif­fel Tow­er — gate­way to the Paris World’s Fair and cen­ten­ni­al mark­er of the Rev­o­lu­tion — was first designed and built, it was far from beloved. Its cre­ator, Alexan­dre Gus­tave Eif­fel, an engi­neer known for build­ing bridges, faced wide­spread con­dem­na­tion, both from the city’s cre­ative class and in the pop­u­lar press. French writer Guy de Mau­pas­sant summed up the pre­vail­ing sen­ti­ment when he called Eif­fel “a boil­er­mak­er with delu­sions of grandeur.”

Before con­struc­tion began, Mau­paus­sant joined a com­mis­sion of 300 artists, archi­tects, and promi­nent cit­i­zens who opposed in a let­ter what they imag­ined as “a gid­dy, ridicu­lous tow­er dom­i­nat­ing Paris like a gigan­tic black smoke­stack…. [A]ll of our humil­i­at­ed mon­u­ments will dis­ap­pear in this ghast­ly dream.” One crit­ic wrote of it as a “hideous col­umn with rail­ings, this infundibu­li­form chick­en wire, glo­ry to the wire and the slab, arrow of Notre-Dame of bric-a-brac.…”

To these objec­tions, Eif­fel cooly replied it made no sense to judge a build­ing sole­ly from its plans. He also repeat­ed his promise: the tow­er, he said, would sym­bol­ize “not only the art of the mod­ern engi­neer, but also the cen­tu­ry of indus­try and sci­ence in which we are liv­ing.” His “unapolo­get­i­cal­ly indus­tri­al lan­guage,” writes Archi­tiz­er, “did not please all.” But Eif­fel did not boast in vain. When com­plet­ed, the tow­er stood almost twice as high as the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment, then the tallest build­ing in the world at 555 feet.

Not only extreme­ly tall for its time, the Eif­fel Tow­er was also very intri­cate. It would be made of 18,000 wrought iron pieces held togeth­er with 2.5 mil­lion riv­ets, with four curved iron piers con­nect­ed by a lat­tice of gird­ers. After care­ful cal­cu­la­tions, the tow­er’s curves were designed to offer the max­i­mum amount of effi­cient wind resis­tance. 

In the video just above, you can see the tower’s incred­i­ble con­struc­tion from August 1887 to March 1889, mod­eled in an ani­mat­ed time­lapse ani­ma­tion. Its design has far out­last­ed its orig­i­nal­ly short lifes­pan. Slat­ed to be torn down after 20 years, the tow­er stands as tall as ever, though it’s been dwarfed sev­er­al times over by struc­tures that would appall the sig­na­to­ries against Gus­tave Eif­fel in 1887.

Indeed, it is impos­si­ble now to imag­ine Paris with­out Eiffel’s cre­ation. Mau­pas­sant, how­ev­er, spent his life try­ing to do just that. He report­ed­ly had his lunch in the tower’s restau­rant every day, since it was the only place in Paris one could not see it.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Paris in Beau­ti­ful Col­or Images from 1890: The Eif­fel Tow­er, Notre Dame, The Pan­théon, and More (1890)

Build­ing The Eif­fel Tow­er: Three Google Exhi­bi­tions Revis­it the Birth of the Great Parisian Mon­u­ment

Pris­tine Footage Lets You Revis­it Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Broth­ers

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Mark Levine says:

    Is it true that the Ger­man want­ed to tear the Tow­er down for its steel dur­ing WWII but that the French work­ers resist­ed and that’s when it real­ly became the “beloved” mon­u­ment it is today? That sto­ry — if true — is as remark­able as the con­struc­tion project, itself.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.