“I ought to be jealous,” engineer Gustave Eiffel said, after his 1,070-foot iron lattice tower was erected in late-19th-century Paris. “She is more famous than I am.” Tea Eiffel Tower has since become an icon of France and a symbol of love. It’s also been replicated in cities around the world, from glittery Las Vegas to industrial Shenzhen.
But what has delighted visitors for the past 125 years is no longer enough. The “Iron Lady” (as the structure is nicknamed) has gotten old; in-the-know travelers and residents routinely advise friends to skip the Eiffel Tower for the quieter Parisian district of Montmartre. That’s why, for the past two years, architects Moatti-Riviere have overseen a $37.5 million renovation to bring the tower into the 21st century. Today, the city officially unveiled the makeover, according to the AFP.
“I hear that Paris has lost its luster and attractiveness, it is not true,” Paris Mayor Ann Hidalgo said in a speech about the renovation. “We are an attractive city capable of inventing without damaging anything in our history.”
The restoration’s crowning jewel is a new glass floor on the tower’s first level, where previous visitors had rarely lingered while exiting the structure. It offers the illusion that you’re walking on air and gives a clear view of the crowds 187 feet below.
Workers also rebuilt the Gustave Eiffel pavilion on the first floor’s north and east sides to contain a reception and conference room for professional events. The Ferrié pavilion on the south and west sides was improved to include event space, restaurants, shops, and a museum where the tower’s history will be exhibited. Additionally, the façade of 58 Tour Eiffel, the resident restaurant, was renovated.
The Eiffel Tower has come a long way. When Eiffel built it as the entrance gate to the 1889 World’s Fair, he wanted to show that France wasn’t just a country of entertainers but also of “engineers and builders called from across the world to build … major monuments of modern industry.” The “mechanico-phallic” tower, as critic Robert Hughes described it in The Shock of the New, was the ultimate symbol of modernity’s progress and optimism, offering many Parisians their first bird’s-eye view of earth. Today, the tower might better symbolize France’s avarice for tourism dollars — not to mention our own desire for ever-more-exciting thrills. The Iron Lady just might be Paris’s greatest entertainer yet.