When it was completed in 1889, the Eiffel Tower – Paris’s Iron Lady – was expected to last 20 years before being dismantled. One hundred and 33 anni dopo, the tower is still standing, less by design than through diligent maintenance.
Adesso, tuttavia, confidential reports leaked to the French magazine Marianne suggest the monument is in a poor state and riddled with rust. The tower needs a full repair, Si sostiene, but instead it is being given only a cosmetic makeover for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“If Gustave Eiffel visited the place he would have a heart attack,” one unnamed manager at the tower told Marianne.
The 324-metre-tall, 7,300-tonne iron tower was built for the 1889 world’s fair. It has an estimated 2.5m rivets and was built using puddle iron, invented in Britain during the Industrial Revolution through a process that produced high-grade and purer wrought iron by removing carbon from pig iron in the melting process.
Eiffel, the civil engineer whose company designed and built the monument, said identifying and stopping the spread of rust was the biggest challenge to the construction’s longevity and suggested it would need painting every seven years. “Paint is the essential ingredient for protecting a metallic structure and the care with which this is done is the only guarantee of its longevity,” he wrote at the time.
The tower is undergoing a €60m repaint in preparation for the 2024 Olimpiadi, the 20th time the monument has been repainted. A third of the tower was supposed to be stripped and then have two new coats applied. tuttavia, delays to the work caused by Covid and the presence of lead in the old paint means only 5% will be treated.
Experts told Marianne that the work was only a cosmetic facelift and predicted the final result would be “lamentable”.
The company that oversees the tower, Sete, which is 99%-owned by the city hall, is reluctant to close it for a long period because of the tourist revenue that would be lost. The tower receives about 6 million visitors in a typical year, making it the fourth most visited cultural site in Francia after Disneyland, the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles. Its Covid-enforced closure in 2020 led to a loss of €52m in income.
A report in 2010 disse: “Sete must take another look at the Eiffel Tower and come up with a completely new maintenance policy centred on the testing of the ageing metal structure.” A second report in 2014 found the tower had cracks and rusting, and a third in 2016 trovato 884 faults including 68 that were said to pose a risk to “the durability” of the structure.
On the tower’s website, Bertrand Lemoine, an architect, engineer and historian, gives a more optimistic view. He says the enemy of iron is corrosion, caused by the oxidisation of iron exposed to air and water. But he says that if it were repainted the Eiffel Tower can last forever.