For the Universal Exhibition of 1889, a date that marked the centenary of the French Revolution, the Journal Officiel launched a major competition to “study the possibility of erecting an iron tower on the Champ-de-Mars. The tower would have a square base, 125 metres on each side and 300 meters high.” The project proposal by entrepreneur Gustave Eiffel, engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier and architect Stephen Sauvestre was chosen out of a total of 107.

The design

Fifty engineers and designers produced 5,300 drawings, and over 100 workers built more than 18,000 different parts of the tower in a workshop. Another 132 workers assembed them on site.


• Work on the foundations began on January 26, 1887 and took ive months, with  the workers using only spades. The rubble was taken away by carts drawn by horses and steam locomotives.
• The pillars. While there was no problem building pillars 2 and 3 on  the Champ-de-Mars  side, on  the  Seine River  side, pillars 1 and 4 required air-compressed  foundations using corrugated steel caissons ive meters under water.
• The deepest foundations lay just 15 meters underground. The feet of the tower were set in each of these foundation ditches (four  foundations  in masonry, which supported the  four pillars, known as truss frames).

• Assembling  the first floor. The  dificulty of  the  assembly lay  in  the  point  of  departure  at  the  base  of  the  truss  frames. They had to be positioned at a slanting angle so that they would meet the horizontal beams on the first floor. To achieve this, the engineers used hydraulic jacks to move each “foot” and erected
an original scaffolding system, on  top of which were a number of boxes of sand that emptied to regulate the slant of the truss frames. The jacks no longer exist, but the Eiffel Tower operating company, Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, has reproduced them, and  they are on show  in  the Ferrié Pavilion on  the first floor of the Tower.
• The second floor was assembled with cranes that took the same  route as  the elevators. All of  the parts were built  in  the Eiffel workshops  in Levallois, on  the edge of Paris, and  riveted into  position  on  site. The Tower  was  mounted  rather  like  a giant Meccano® with remarkable precision, which was a major
innovation at the time.
• From the second to the third floor, the carpenters worked wonders and there was not one single fatal accident during the construction period.

• The monument was inaugurated on March 31, 1889. On that day, Gustave Eiffel climbed the 1,710 steps of the Tower to  plant the French lag at its peak. He was followed by the members of the Council of Paris, including Emile Chautemps, President of the Paris City Council. The Eiffel Tower was the highest building
in the world until 1929, when the Chrysler Building in New York topped it at 319 metres.

Key figures for an epic

• The  four  pillars  of  the  Eiffel Tower  stand  in  a  square  that measures  125 meters  on  each  side. They  are  oriented  in  line with the 4 cardinal points.
• The metal structure weighs 7,300 tons.
• Total weight: 10,100 tons.
• Number of rivets used: 2,500,000.
• Number of iron parts: 18,038.

• Cost of construction: 7,799,401.31 French gold francs of 1889.

View from 153 meters above the ground level (Restaurant Jules Verne - Tour Eiffel)
Creative Commons License Credit: scalleja