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It is an almost unavoidable custom that, for a city to be considered one of the greatest in the world, it needs to have something that makes it a visual standout, an iconic structure that acts almost like an outstretched arm commanding attention from a distance.
In New York, you have the Statue of Liberty, the colossal torch-bearing maiden ruling over Liberty Island. You also have the Empire State Building, the timeless and barely avoidable tower of Manhattan. In Dubai, you have the Burj Khalifa, which is currently the tallest man-made structure in the world. And in London, you have Big Ben and the London Eye.
But what of Paris? Some would argue in behalf of the Louvre; others would argue in behalf of Arc de Triomphe. Indeed, their respective artistries and cultural values cannot be questioned. But in terms of purely being seen, one simply cannot ignore the Eiffel Tower, the blunt and proud declaration that says, “Yes, this is Paris!”
Standing at 1,063 feet, the Eiffel Tower is one of the tallest structures in the world. For a time, it even held the title now owned by Burj Khalifa. It also stands as one of the most important tourist destinations in France.
But it wasn’t always so popular. When the public was made aware of the plans for its construction, the project was criticized on both practical and artistic grounds. Some deemed it unfeasible, while others simply deemed it as an eyesore. Once, Paris’s most prominent artists even formed a group called the “Committee of Three Hundred” to protest against it. The group wrote a petition published in Le Temps calling the tower “useless,” “monstrous,” and “a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe.”
But criticism of the tower has receded over time. Once deemed “useless,” the tower’s height made it functional especially when used for communication purposes. It was dubbed “monstrous,” but soon enough, numerous aesthetic additions to its façade have allowed it to win hearts. And yes, for a time, it seemed out of place in the midst of more sophisticated architecture. But after the years it has spent standing in the city, drawing attention to the French capital, and finding itself in postcards, photos and tourism brochures, the tower, once seen as an outsider, has become an auspicious and celebrated member of its community.
These days, it’s just hard to imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower. Yes, the city would most likely remain formidable should the massive spire be torn down. But it simply wouldn’t be the same. It might even be harder to identify from afar.