Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is the Eiffel Tower a Smoke Stack?

Paris architectural landscape is quite diverse and crosses over two thousand years of history from Gothic  to Renaissance, Classical to Baroque , Art Deco to Art Nouveau, modern to contemporary.  All together, the pot-pourri of architectural styles makes what Paris is today, a visual feast.  However, when first built these iconic Parisian landmarks :  Eiffel Tower, Pompidou Center and  the Louvre Pyramid  generated formidable controversies.  Today they symbolize Paris and are cherished by Parisians and visitors alike.

Eiffel Tower circa 1889
The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 for the Universal Exposition (World Fair) to showcase the new method of steel building construction and the progress in France's 19th century technological advancements.  A design competition calling for a tall tower was won by structural engineer Gustave Eiffel and his partners Maurice  Koechlin, Emile Nougira and Stephan Savestre.  Many Parisians and among them prominent artists like Guy de Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas, Paul Verlaine and even Charles Garnier  of the Paris Opera were against a metallic tower in the middle of Paris that they considered would destroy the harmonious city landscape of stone buildings and monuments.  One detractor described the proposed tower as a "half built smoke stack", another a "belfry skeleton" and yet another "a truly tragic street lamp".  Local residents who worried  that pieces of metal would fall on their nearby buildings even sued to halt construction of the tower.  It took two years (twice the time it was originally planned) to build the monument  but right from the opening day of the fair, naysayers were proved wrong as the tower became a huge success.   At 300 meter high it was the highest structure in the world until New York Chrysler Building was erected in 1930.

At the conclusion of the World Fair, opponents demanded that the tower be destroyed but Gustave Eiffel fought to keep the tower for scientific experiments - Subsequently the top of the tower  has been used as a weather station as well as a platform for telephone, radio and TV transmission.

Today the Eiffel Tower stands as  the symbol of Paris and more than 6 million tourists visit it each year.

A Colorful Skeleton
Pompidou Center-Enchanted France
The Pompidou center also known as Beaubourg Museum was inaugurated in 1977.  a brain-child of President Pompidou (1969-1974), this museum is dedicated to modern art and is the largest of its kind in Europe. From its conception, the structure was the subject of much controversy.  First, its  location was criticized by many as the building and nearby underground shopping complex was to be erected on the site of Les Halles -- the 800 year old  Parisian central market.   Many Parisians were opposed to moving the old central market to the suburbs thereby destroying an iconic neighborhood of Paris. Secondly, the building designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers was not to the liking of many who felt that the exposed exo-skeleton of boldly colored pipes and tubes clashed with the traditional buildings surrounding it.  Today, the museum is one of the most impressive structures in Paris attracting 26,000  visitors daily who come to admire its amazing contemporary art collection as well to soak up the  lively and entertaining atmosphere  that takes place outside on its plaza.

A Pyramid for All Ages
Louvre Pyramid-Enchanted France
President Mitterand had great architectural ambitions for  Paris when he was elected in 1981.  Under his 14 years presidency, Paris undertook major architectural transformations notably with the building of Grand Louvre, Defense Arch, the Opera Bastille and  the National Library, now known as the Francois Mitterand Library. It is the Louvre project that generated much controversy notably the building of the glass pyramid in the center of the Louvre main courtyard.  Chinese-American architect I.M Pei's design was selected from among many entries submitted by international architectural firms.   The pyramid was conceived to serve as the main entrance to the museum. Up until its inauguration, critics of the Pyramid concept felt it would clash with the classical architecture of the Louvre Palace.  These critics were proven wrong when the Grand Louvre was inaugurated in 1989 to much international acclaim.   The New Times described it as an "exquisite object, less a real building than an elegant abstraction, floating in the Louvre courtyard amid a set of new reflecting pools and fountains."  The pyramid is today an iconic  Parisian landmark as much as the Eiffel Tower.

For your next visit of Paris and the French countryside contact www.enchanted-france.com 

tag: #Paris, # Eiffel Tower, # Louvre, # Pompidou Center

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