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Gustave Eiffel won the competition to design and build this iconic centerpiece of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, held to celebrate the French Revolution a century earlier. The French turned to American-based Otis to engineer the tower’s most complex elevators.
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
The Eiffel Tower stood as the world’s tallest man-made structure from the time it opened in 1889 until 1930, when it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building (1,046 ft), also equipped with Otis elevators.
The tower is among the world’s most popular monuments, with about 7 million people visiting each year. About 250 million have ascended the tower since it opened.
The only nonstructural elements in the latticed wrought-iron tower are the four decorative arches at its base, added to provide a more impressive entrance to the exposition and give the structure a more substantial look.
By design, the tower sways slightly in the wind, but heat affects it more. When the temperature is high, the side facing the sun expands, while the shaded side leans as much as 18 centimeters "to get out of the sun."
When construction began in 1887, prominent artists and intellectuals petitioned to halt the project, comparing the tower to a "gigantic black factory chimney." Its ugliness, they claimed, would dishonor the city.
Eiffel kept a private office at the top of the tower to carry out scientific experiments and entertain important guests, including the American inventor Thomas Edison.
"Do people think that because we are engineers, beauty plays no part in what we build, that if we aim for the solid and lasting that we don’t at the same time do our utmost to achieve elegance?"
Otis designed and installed the original elevators to the second level. Officials wanted to use a French company, but only Otis could engineer a system to accommodate the pillars’ curvature. Charles Otis assured Eiffel that the elevators would operate to "absolute perfection."
The Eiffel Tower stood as the world’s tallest man-made structure from the time it opened in 1889 until 1930, when it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building (319 meters), also equipped with Otis elevators.
By design, the tower sways slightly in the wind, but heat affects it more. When the temperature is high, the side facing the sun expands, while the shaded side leans as much as 18 centimeters “to get out of the sun.”
When construction began in 1887, prominent Parisian artists and intellectuals petitioned to halt the project, comparing the tower to a “gigantic black factory chimney.”
Was the city of Paris, they demanded, to be associated “with the strange and venal imaginations of a machine-maker, bringing upon itself dishonor and an ugliness that can never be corrected?”
“Do people think that because we are engineers, beauty plays no part in what we build, that if we aim for the solid and lasting that we don’t at the same time do our utmost to achieve elegance?”
Otis designed and installed the original elevators for the tower’s north and south pillars to carry visitors to the second level at 115 meters.
The exposition’s charter had ruled out using any foreign companies on the project, but no French firm would take this piece of the job. The curvature of the tower’s pillars was too daunting a challenge.
In the 1980s, Otis re-engineered the tower’s elevator systems.
To reach the top of the tower, Otis designed a radical new system of two Duolift™ elevators. Each elevator consists of two cabs, which act as each other’s counterweight: When one cab goes up, the other comes down.
Another elevator ascends the south pillar to Le Jules Verne restaurant on the second level. The elevator must follow the pillar’s curve and travel an inclined plane.
Each of four cars carries 20 passengers, making it possible for 80 people to travel at the same time, 40 going up and 40 going down. The elevators travel 1.8 meters per second, a speed that gives passengers time to enjoy the view.
Engineers battled the laws of equilibrium in devising a solution: to suspend the cab from a bracket that guides the system, similar to Alpine cable-car techniques. Auxiliary guides suppress lateral movement to ensure a smooth ride at 1.6 meters per second.
"The Eiffel Tower inspires everyone with a sense of awe – and we’re honored to help enrich people’s experience of this cultural icon."
Otis Elevator Company1 Carrier PlaceFarmington, CT 06032
04/4 Eiffel Tower
Dubai, United Arab Emirates