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EIFFEL TOWER

See what Paris could have had instead of the Eiffel Tower

Did you know that there was once a plan to build an enormous sun tower in Paris, an overly ambitious plan that eventually lost out to the Eiffel Tower?

See what Paris could have had instead of the Eiffel Tower
Photo: Jeroen Bennink/Flickr
The Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris. It's the setting for countless marriage proposals and perhaps billions of tourist photos. 
 
But back in 1885, it wasn't the only building competing to become the focal point of Paris. 
 
The French capital needed another kind of enormous tower, argued Jules Bourdais, an architect with grand plans for a “sun tower” that he claimed would illuminate the whole city.
 
His tower, pictured right, was inspired by French engineer Sébillot who had just returned from the US in the early 1880s. 
 
Together, they planned to build a 300-metre tower which came complete with an electric lamp “to illuminate Paris”. The lighthouse section would have given an extra 55 metres in height, taking the tower to 355 metres. 
 
The Eiffel Tower measures 300 metres.
 
The Musée d'Orsay in Paris, which features some of the works of Bourdais, notes that the sun tower was planned to “easily light up the Bois de Boulogne and the whole of Neuilly and Levallois as far as the Seine!”
 
It was to be built in granite, with a masonry core surrounded by a series of galleries on top of one another and small cast iron columns. 
 
The light was planned to beam across the city, to be then reflected off strategically placed mirrors around Paris, bathing the capital in light. 
 
The triangular base was designed to be higher than the towers of Notre Dame alone and would have played host to an electricity museum. 
 
And at the very top, the winged statue of the Genius of Science.
 
Le Figaro newspaper dived into its archives this week, revealing an article from 1885 praising the design of the sun tower.
 
The writer, Pierre Giffard, marvelled at the project, comparing it to the wonders of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. 
 

“It differs from the famous Tuscan tower round by an absolute straightness, with such an elevation that no such monument erected by the hand of the man would even reach a third of its height,” he trumpeted. 
 
While Bourdais, pictured left, already had a stellar reputation as an architect, the lighthouse idea proved far too ambitious. 
 
The museum noted that the architect had apparently not considered the enormous weight of the monument, the massive foundations it would have needed to support this weight, its instability, or the “outrageous” building costs.
 
As a result, the idea was passed over for the impressive work of a young Gustave Eiffel – giving us the Eiffel Tower as we know it today.

And let's not forget that the Eiffel Tower is something of a “sun tower” too – its spotlight which spins 360 degrees each night reaches distances of around 80 kilometres. 
 
As for Bourdais, while he never could claim to be the man behind the tallest (and arguably greatest) building in France, he could be content with an impressive contribution to the landscape of France. 
 
He designed the impressive Trocadero Palace in 1876, which once stood near the Eiffel Tower, and the Town Hall in the 19th arrondissement of Paris in 1878, which still stands today. 
 
The Trocadero Palace. Photo: WikiCommons
 
The Town Hall in the 19th. Photo: Patrick Verdier/WikiCommons
 
 
 

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TOURISM

Eiffel Tower reopens from its longest closure since World War II

The Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors on Friday for the first time in nine months following its longest closure since World War II.

Eiffel Tower reopens from its longest closure since World War II
The Eiffel Tower reopens on Friday. Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP

The lifts of the Dame de fer (Iron Lady) are set to whir back into life, transporting tourists to its 300-metre summit, ending a long period of inactivity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daily capacity is restricted to 13,000 people, however, about half of the normal level, in order to respect social distancing.

And from Wednesday next week, visitors will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test, in line with recent government-imposed requirements on the pass sanitaire (health passport).

READ ALSO How France’s expanded health passport will work this summer

“Obviously it’s an additional operational complication, but it’s manageable,” the head of the operating company, Jean-François Martins, told AFP.

After a final round of safety checks by staff, he announced that the “lady is ready”.

Early reservations for tickets during the summer holiday period underline how the tourism industry in Paris has changed due to travel restrictions.

Martins said there was an “almost total absence” of British ticket holders, while only 15 percent were Americans and very few are from Asia.

READ ALSO Eiffel Tower: 13 things you didn’t know about Paris’ ‘iron lady’

Half of visitors are expected to be French, while Italians and Spanish make up a higher proportion than usual.

The long closure has caused havoc with the finances of the operating company, Sete, which runs the monument on behalf of Paris city authorities.

It is set to seek additional government aid and a fresh €60-million cash injection to stay afloat, having seen its revenues fall by 75 percent to €25 million in 2020.

The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has also been hit by problems linked to its latest paint job, the 20th time it has been repainted since its construction in 1889.

Work was halted in February because of high levels of lead detected on the site, which poses a health risk to workers.

Tests are still underway and painting is set to resume only in the autumn, meaning a part of the facade is obscured by scaffolding and safety nets.

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