From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Eiffel Tower is an iron tower in Paris, France. It is one of the tallest structures in Paris and one of the most recognized and visited monuments in the world. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, it stands as a symbol to the modernity of Nineteenth century Paris.
The structure was built between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance arch for the Exposition Universelle, a World's Fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution. Eiffel originally planned to build it in Barcelona, for the Universal Exposition of 1888, but they rejected it. The tower was inaugurated on 31 March, 1889, and opened on 6 May. Three hundred workers joined together 18,038 pieces of puddled iron (a very pure form of structural iron), using two and a half million rivets, in a structural design by Maurice Koechlin. The risk of accident was great, for unlike modern skyscrapers the tower is an open frame without any intermediate floors except the two platforms. Yet because Eiffel took safety precautions including use of movable stagings, guard-rails and screens, only one man died.
The tower was met with criticism from the public when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. (Novelist Guy de Maupassant — who claimed to hate the tower — supposedly ate lunch at the Tower's restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that it was the one place in Paris where you couldn't see the Tower.) Today, it is widely considered to be a striking piece of structural art.
One of the great Hollywood movie clichés is that the view from a Parisian window always includes the tower. In reality, since zoning restrictions limit the height of most buildings in Paris to a few storeys, only the very few taller buildings have a clear view of the tower.
Eiffel had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years, meaning it would have had to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it could be easily demolished) but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes, it was allowed to remain after the expiration of the permit. The military used it to dispatch Parisian taxis to the front line of the Marne, and it therefore became a victory statue of that battle. It was also used to catch the infamous "Mata Hari", and after this, its demolition became unthinkable.