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Gustav Eiffel and the 300-Meter Tower

J.M. Syken

Course Outline

In this course, we will examine the background and events leading up to the design, construction and completion of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. To fully understand and appreciate the edifice, we’ll examine the roots of the tower as centerpiece of the Exposition Universalle des 1889 held on the Champs des Mars in western Paris.

Also, the controversy surrounding the erection of the 300-meter tower and the background of Gustav Eiffel as famed civil engineer will be examined in-depth. We will also review the usefulness of the tower (beyond the 1889 Exposition) as a platform for scientific experimentation, meteorological study, communications, national defense and its role as forerunner of the Skyscraper. As well, the on-going legacy of the tower as an enduring symbol of Paris and the French nation will be highlighted.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for architects, engineers, contractors and construction professionals.

Benefit to Attendees

The attendee/s will gain an intimate knowledge and insight into the creation of one of the world’s greatest edifices: The Eiffel Towe

Course Introduction

An iron tower rising to three-hundred meters (nearly one-thousand feet) in the heart of Paris; the cultural capital of the world That was the grand plan of the Exposition Universalle des 1889, a celebration of both the centenary of the French Revolution and France’s artistic, cultural and technological advances in the intervening one-hundred years. The tower as centerpiece of the exposition was not Gustav Eiffel’s original idea (as is commonly believed) rather, the incentive was a design competition Eiffel had little interest in, at first anyway With France’s most famous engineer on board, there was no doubting that his wrought-iron tower would satisfy all the requirements of the competition and emerge the winner, to the horror of Paris’ cultural elitists. The exposition and tower would be great successes and both would provide the model for future international expositions (i.e. World’s Fair centerpiece) and towers/buildings rising as high as economics and technology would allow, now that Monsieur Eiffel had proved the wind could/would not blow them down.

Course Content

In this course, you are required to view/study the following slideshow and the materials contained in the web pages and a short film:

Gustav Eiffel and the 300-Meter Tower (printable handout in PDF, 8 MB, see Note A below for downloading instruction)
Gustav Eiffel and the 300-Meter Tower (non-printable slideshow for screen-viewing only, 10 MB, see Note A below for downloading instruction)

Eiffel Tower (HTML)


Title: The Eiffel Tower: Europe's Greatest Landmark
Duration: 23:47

Title: How Did They Build That? Eiffel Tower
Duration: 23:51

Title: Eiffel's Megastructures
Duration: 52:06

Note A: Please click on the above underlined hypertext to view, download or print the document for your study. Because of the large file size, we recommend that you first save the file to your computer by right-clicking the mouse and choosing "Save Target As ...", and then open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader from your computer.

Course Summary

If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Eiffel Tower has no rival to compare. From England to Prague to Las Vegas, copies of the tower abound. But the most successful imitator has been the Skyscraper. In 1852 English architect Charles Burton would design the first Skyscraper (47-stories), but it was not until Gustav Eiffel and his firm designed and built a 300-meter tower of latticed wrought-iron that the concept of very tall structures would be proven feasible. Cover the iron frame with a skin of metal and glass, add multiple floors and the Eiffel Tower easily becomes a modern-day Skyscraper. In fact, Eiffel used a 150mph wind (acting on the top of the tower) and assumed (for wind-resistance purposes), that the four faces of the tower would be covered completely (not open lattices). As a successful bridge engineer, Eiffel intuitively understood the dynamic power of the wind so perhaps it was synchronicity that destiny called upon him to design and build a tower of such great height that the wind could not tear it down. The rest, as they say, is history.

Related Links

For additional technical information related to this subject, please visit the following websites:

Eiffel Tower: Deconstructed

Building the Eiffel Tower
(Film: How Tall Buildings Tame the Wind - 09:33)
(Film: Top 5 tallest Skyscrapers by 2021 - 05:14)
(Film: What are Groundscrapers? - 03:15)
(What are Earthscrapers? - 03:38)
(What are Oceanscrapers? - 04:00)
(Film: Top 10: China's Copycat Architecture - 06:06)
(Film: Capture the Eiffel Tower! - 10:03)
(Ironworkers from Newfoundland: Walking Iron [1986] - 17:22
(Eiffel Tower Paris Virtual Tour - 30:37)
(Film: Why Shanghai Tower Failed - 05:58)
(Film: Evolution of World's Tallest Buildings - 05:04)
(Film: Jeddah Tower: The Highest Building With a Difficult Fate - 10:11)
(Smithsonian magazine article about conman "Count" Victor Lustig)
(Film: Modern Marvels - Eiffel Tower - 47:34)


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.