Sunday Summary Week 14

by - April 05, 2015

Last Tuesday Google made us aware that it's been 126 years since the public opening of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower must be one of, if not the most famous tower on earth. I mean, it's practically a celebrity. Everyone wants to get a picture with it (mostly because otherwise no one will believe you if you say that you've been to Paris. "Oh you've been to Paris, how lovely! Where's the picture of the Eiffel tower? You ain't got none?! Well darling, very disappointing…").

My personal experience with the Eiffel Tower isn't as grand as I hoped it to be. Basically I was forced to go up and cried (nay! Had a meltdown combined with an existential crisis) all the way to the top (and also down again). I'd like to think that I've given everyone an unforgettable experience. It at least still hunts my mind...

Now I don't want to sound like a party pooper, but 126 years isn't really a big deal. I mean, a big deal would've been 125 years or so. Not +1. I think 126 bothers me because of the un-roundness of the number. It's a nothing number. Like for instance 49 or 64 or 91. They've all succumbed to the beforehand or aftermath of something great. Now they're useless, really.

The Eiffel Tower was naturally designed by Mr. Eiffel OR SO I THOUGHT. News flash: Eiffel bought the design for his building company from two of his engineers, Émile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin. The last one also helped designing the steel construction for the Statue of Liberty in NY. 

The whole thing went thus public on the 31st of March 1889. Just in time for the World Exhibition that year (naturally held in Paris). I've always been fascinated by the concept of a world exhibition. The idea is a spin-off from the socalled national exhibitions that've been held all over the world since 1756. The key to such national exhibition was to show what the country's got in store (to the country that stored it). The same principle goes for the world exhibition, only –as you might've guessed- bigger, better, faster and stronger. The idea of a world exhibition comes from France, but it were the Brits who've done it first in 1851 with the now still famous Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London (it was not for nothing called The Great Exhibition). Unfortunately the Crystal Palace is no longer with us, but it started a tradition of getting something build to show off your abilities (a Crystal Palace in London, an Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Atomium in Brussels just to name a few).

The world exhibitions were held so the participating countries could show the world their economical, social, cultural and technical advances, progression and differences (of what made them unique and forethoughtful). It's a very typical product (and manner of presentation and thought process) for the mid 19th century optimism towards the changing –industrializing- world.

In the first place the goal of the exhibition was to promote the international trading ties and to propagate all the technical advances that been made. Such inventions as the first telephone, car and record player were shown on one of the exhibitions. 

However the real impact of the exhibitions must be found on a more cultural level. The arts were held high during the exhibition, as again architecture like the Eiffel Tower or the Crystal Palace were admired for their advanced technicalities. But also the good ol' visual arts were there to be seen. Mostly the countries brought their good stuff, which already were viewed by the world as absolute masterpieces (think for instance about some Rembrandt's). But at the turn of the century modern art budged the classical to a side (just so to speak) and took a seat as representatives of the cultural society. Such –now renowned, then unknown- artists as Renoir, Monet and Rodin just to name a few were put aside for the world to see.

Now, after 126 years, Paris would be very different without the Eiffel Tower and the prices for a painting by, let's say Renoir, will cost you a fortune. It's funny how such an event can change the view on products and their meaning to society. Presentation can be key to appreciation. Also it's safe to say that the Eiffel Tower is still a good piece of steel with an image any PR person would be jealous of... (although I wouldn't go into the question if it's good looking or not).


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