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Gustave Eiffel : His life
>> The Eiffel Tower
The monument the most easily associated with the memory of the great engineer is without doubt the famous tower that bears his name. Conceived with his two main collaborators, Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, as well as with the collaboration of the architect Steven Sauvestre, that incredible project was created to mark the opening of the 1889 World’s Fair and was financed by Gustave Eiffel himself for 80% of the costs, in exchange of an initial concession of 20 years.
Still extremely impressive today, that tower of 1000 feet was an even more formidable technical challenge at the time it was built. One must not forget that it was almost twice as high as the tallest monument of the day: the Washington Monument and its 169 meters, itself erected just a few years earlier in 1884. Gustave has had to fight against all sorts of odds to succeed, on the building site as well as outside. There were many opponents to the project, including among the local elite ‐ the signatories of the notorious « Artists Protest ». Once the construction was over, another battle began to ensure that the tower would last: it was initially planned to be dismantled after 20 years.

The Tower took only 26 months to build, from January 28 th 1987 to March 30th 1889, five month of which were spend the foundations alone. The 18 000 parts were designed and manufactured with an error margin of less than a tenth of a millimeter at the Eiffel workshop in Levallois, then driven by cart to the Champs de Mars where they were hauled up by cranes that moved up on the construction using the tracks of the future elevators, and assembled by a team of just around 250 workers. That gigantic « Meccano » required the setting of some 2 500 000 rivet joints, 1 000 000 of which were set directly on site.

The success of the Eiffel Tower was instant. It quickly became the symbol of Paris, and for most foreigners the symbol of France. It currently attracts close to 7 million visitors each year, with a total of more than 250 million since its opening.

Right after the tower, Gustave Eiffel embarked in 1890 on another project of epic proportions : an ingenious « underwater bridge » to cross the English channel. Refused in the end by the authorities for purely political reasons, Eiffel’s designs already closely foreshadowed what would become the « Eurotunnel », some 104 years later.