The design for the Eiffel Tower's first floor by Moatti Riviere architects (Image courtesy of La Tour Eiffel)

Moatti Riviere architects’ design for the Eiffel Tower’s first floor (image courtesy La Tour Eiffel)

“I ought to be jealous,” engineer Gustave Eiffel said, after his 1,070-foot iron lattice tower was erected in late-19th-century Paris. “She is more famous than I am.” The Eiffel Tower has since become an icon of France and a symbol of love. It’s also been replicated in cities around the world, from glittery Las Vegas to industrial Shenzhen.

A caricature of Gustave Eiffel comparing the Eiffel Tower to the Egyptian pyramids (Image via Wikimedia)

A caricature of Gustave Eiffel comparing the Eiffel Tower to the Egyptian pyramids (image via Wikimedia)

But what has delighted visitors for the past 125 years is no longer enough. The “Iron Lady” (as the structure is nicknamed) has gotten old; in-the-know travelers and residents routinely advise friends to skip the Eiffel Tower for the quieter Parisian district of Montmartre. That’s why, for the past two years, architects Moatti-Riviere have overseen a $37.5 million renovation to bring the tower into the 21st century. Today, the city officially unveiled the makeover, according to the AFP.

“I hear that Paris has lost its luster and attractiveness, it is not true,” Paris Mayor Ann Hidalgo said in a speech about the renovation. “We are an attractive city capable of inventing without damaging anything in our history.”

The restoration’s crowning jewel is a new glass floor on the tower’s first level, where previous visitors had rarely lingered while exiting the structure. It offers the illusion that you’re walking on air and gives a clear view of the crowds 187 feet below.

Workers also rebuilt the Gustave Eiffel pavilion on the first floor’s north and east sides to contain a reception and conference room for professional events. The Ferrié pavilion on the south and west sides was improved to include event space, restaurants, shops, and a museum where the tower’s history will be exhibited. Additionally, the façade of 58 Tour Eiffel, the resident restaurant, was renovated.

La Tour Eiffel has come a long way. When Eiffel built it as the entrance gate to the 1889 World’s Fair, he wanted to show that France wasn’t just a country of entertainers but also of “engineers and builders called from across the world to build … major monuments of modern industry.” The “mechanico-phallic” tower, as critic Robert Hughes described it in The Shock of the New, was the ultimate symbol of modernity’s progress and optimism, offering many Parisians their first bird’s-eye view of earth. Today, the tower might better symbolize France’s avarice for tourism dollars — not to mention our own desire for ever-more-exciting thrills. The Iron Lady just might be Paris’s greatest entertainer yet.

(image via Twitter)

(image via Twitter)

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

3 replies on “The Eiffel Tower Gets a Facelift”

  1. Don’t be hyperbolic. I can’t imagine anyone advising first-time visitors to Paris to skip the Tower; it was an engineering marvel and remains an absolute must-see thanks to many many things, physical presence, texture, detailing… even the views. It’s not just hype. This amazing thing deserves to be the most visited attraction in the world.

    I was just there, didn’t realize how new the addition was. The new pavilions seem very appropriate. I imagine the platform prior to the tower was pretty bare. The tower itself works great as a framework for these new insertions. The glass floors, whose relatively dense frit pattern doesn’t allow for “walking on air” does give a direct sense of how high you are off the ground at just the first floor. It’s very unsettling, many people were crouched together at the edge of the glass inching slowly out (seriously!) I found that the only way to overcome my minor panic was to trust in the engineers: likely similar to those brave enough to ride the elevators up when the tower was first built.

    1. I dunno, I went up in the tower the first time I visited Paris. When my husband and I went last year, (his first time) I suggested we skip it. It was interesting, but not worth the lines and wait. It’s just as lovely walking around it.

  2. Oh, Paris, you never fail to charm me. The Eiffel Tower has been the
    major landmark of Paris for years, I am not sure if giving it a new look would
    be for good or bad for tourism. This man made architecture has been up for
    almost 125 years and understandably it would now need revisions, reinforcements
    and redesign. This is the best place to witness the magnificence of Paris. It
    is also equipped and filled with everything a tourist would need. After the
    viewing session, tourists can enjoy their food and also buy souvenirs. The
    changes planned for the Iron Lady would interest lots of tourist to come back
    and be amazed by its new look. To see one of the best photos of the Eiffel
    tower, visit the Imagery and travel blog, http://www.imagerykc.com.

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