A duel on the summit between two iron and stone monuments

A duel on the summit between two iron and stone monuments

Drawing of the Eiffel Tower in the documentary “Eiffel Tower Wars” by director Matthieu Schwarz and Savin Yeetmann-Eiffel.

ARTE – Saturday 18 – 8:50 pm – Documentary

Always higher. During the nineteenth centuryH In the twentieth century, in a race toward gigantism that combines artistic ambitions, technical prowess, and political goals, the major industrial powers seem obsessed with the idea of ​​building the tallest monument in the world. The dream of British, French and American architects and engineers? Building a tower up to 1,000 feet high, i.e. 300 meters high.

To mark the centenary of the death of Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923), Matthew Schwarz and Savin Yeetman Eiffel, great-great-grandson of the famous engineer, have produced a fascinating documentary. Initially focusing on the duel between Gustave Eiffel and architect Jules Bordet (1835-1915) to build this 300-meter-high tower on the occasion of the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition, the directors then expanded their scope of work to include many European and international countries. American projects that were aborted or saw the light during a period of intense change.

Often times, reconstructed scenes included in documentaries are ineffective. This is not the case here, thanks to the quality of the acting and the clarity of the lyrics: Marc Cité (Gustave Eiffel) and François Rabbit (Julien Bourdet) play with integrity and highlight the complexity of the discussions. The quality of the photographic and animation archives and the specialists interviewed (architects, historians, engineers, biographers) do the rest.

Read also: The material is reserved for our subscribers Gustave Eiffel, Beyond Iron

Before Paris presented the world with the Eiffel Tower in 1889, many projects tried to see the light of day. But from the 1832 Reform Tower in London to the Centennial Tower in Philadelphia in 1876, it was not possible to build a giant tower, due to lack of funding or other problems. In February 1885, the tallest building on the planet was none other than the Washington Obelisk, built of stone and reaching a height of 169 metres.

Republic and modernity

On May 31, 1884, the French government officially announced that a Universal Exposition would be held in Paris in 1889 to celebrate the centenary of the Revolution. The perfect opportunity to assert the strength and modernity of the Republic. “We want to show through this exhibition the relationship between the scientific and technological development of the Republic and the great principles of 1789: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”“, confirms historian Michele Carmona.

The famous architect Jules Bordet feels that the time has come to create his life’s work: a massive granite tower, with a lighthouse at the top (370 metres) illuminating the capital. But Bourdais is not alone in the race. He is confronted by his former friend from Central, the famous engineer Gustave Eiffel, author of, among others, Budapest Train Station and the stunning Dom Luis Bridge in Porto. Eiffel’s “claw”? Work the iron and above all make it visible. It is not easy. Guide ? It wasn’t until 1878 when Paris city regulations allowed metal frames to be seen!

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