France: It measures 324 meters in height, weighs 7,300 tons and attracts more than seven million visitors each year: the Eiffel Tower, strongly contested during its construction, has become the symbol of Paris, which is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year.
This property of the City of Paris celebrated all over the world has not always been liked: its construction was accompanied by a "huge controversy, complaints and petitions" of opponents, says the deputy in charge of culture at the city hall of Paris, Christophe Girard.
On the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1889, which marked the centenary of the French Revolution, a great competition was launched, won by the industrialist Gustave Eiffel, much to the chagrin of many artists of the time including the writer Guy de Maupassant.
Built in two years, two months and five days, the one based on more than 18,000 pieces of iron is the symbol of a "technical and architectural performance". In the nineteenth century, "it is the symbol of a France that catches up with its industrial power" and becomes "the highlight of the 1889 exhibition," said Bertrand Lemoine, architect and historian.
Since then, his fame has grown steadily, attracting more than 20 million admirers from all over the world to watch him, sometimes to climb and immortalise him. "The Eiffel Tower is a must," said Laurie, who came from Canada. Like her, Regina Rossmann, a 46 year old German, did not hesitate a single second to return with her children even if, "compared to 20 years ago, the price of the ticket is expensive": 9, 70 euros for a young person from 12 to 24, and 19.40 euros for an adult, to reach the summit by means of a lift and staircase.
"Since the incident of Notre-Dame, we realise that the monuments are fragile and that accidents can happen," says Greta Rama, 23, an Albanian living in Brussels. The fire of the cathedral "awakened the conscience of the importance of our heritage", on the fact that it "can disappear or be damaged", estimates Mr Girard.
"It's a realization that despite the years has more and more successful," notes Agnès Sorlier, 59, a Parisian whose office overlooks the Iron Lady, who admits, however, a little embarrassed, that she "does not look at her anymore".
She regrets that "the work, the fences, the glass wall around the building ... create something infernal!" and give the image of a "Eiffel tower barricaded". The Eiffel Tower "undergoes the time, which is security," concedes Christophe Girard, "but it is stronger than all that". Proof if necessary: "She beat Jeanne Calment", French died at 122 years.
Las. The old Iron Lady tires and suffers from a "saturation" of visitors. His painting should soon be refreshed, "for the 18th time since its origin", while the accumulation of layers "is problematic," says the specialist Bertrand Lemoine.
Over the years, it has also found a place on the international scene by carrying political or even humanist messages, as evidenced by the many times it goes out in tribute to the victims of "terrorism" or the victims. "In 1900, when the effect of fashion was over, there was a risk that the Tower is destroyed because considered superfluous, outdated," said Bertrand Lemoine.
"But Eiffel, who was aware of this fragility, has demonstrated its usefulness: the Eiffel Tower served as a radio antenna, has made it possible to ensure communications between Paris and the Franco-German border," added the expert. "From then on, there was a strategic and military interest in keeping it."