The Eiffel Tower’s first floor is no longer a huge gaping hole, thanks to some new construction that has been completed. The finished work was unveiled to the public Monday. Somewhat disappointingly, despite hype to the contrary, it does not have a glass floor!
What is does have is a narrow transparent walkway around the perimeter of the gaping hole. You can’t venture very far out from the old metal walkway (the one that has been there since the tower was constructed in the late 1880s). But you can go far enough to probably scare the average tourist half to death. For the very brave, the transparent railing around it is canted out even farther over the void.
The opportunity to pay money to be scared half to death was enough to lure thousands of thrill seekers, despite an afternoon rain, to stand in line for a ticket to experience it. (There was some kind of holiday in Germany today, so more than usual in the queue were from there.)
Millions (seven-plus in 2013) already come to see it each year, making it the most visited monument in the world – especially of the “admission required” variety. It made 73 million euro (over $95 million) last year alone in admission fees to ride the elevators that go to the top. (Latest rates: 9 euro for adults for the elevator to the second floor; a further 15 euro for the separate elevator to the top; it even costs 5 euro now to take the stairs to the second floors that used to be free – note you can’t climb the stairs all the way.)
Local officials, who presided over the “gala” grand opening (pun intended) today, are hopeful the changes will bring even more visitors – and even more money – to the landmark.
The idea of a completely glassed-over floor on the tour’s first elevated viewing area sounded great. But I wondered how they would pull it off – that’s a huge area to cover. And I could just imagine several tour busloads of morbidly obese Americans cramming themselves onto the plexiglass and making it cave in. That was the apparently dealbreaker for architects Moatti-Riviere for anything more ambitious. A structure made of glass or plexiglass or any transparent material (now known) just does not have the tensile strength for those kinds of loads. But a glass walkway can be (and is) reinforced with steel just enough to make it work.
The new installations should help improve the tourist experience up there. It will still be drafty and cold – even on a warm day. But the wind flow has been altered and lessened.
Still, even the tourists who made it up there today seemed daunted – and few stayed out on the see-through portion very long. It is 57 meters (187 feet) to the ground below. (Tip: Ladies are advised no to wear skirts; there are plenty of photographers with very high power telephoto lens camped out below!)
The changes are all part of a 30 million euro facelift of the dowdy first floor, which took two years to complete. The sparkling area now includes glassed-in shops, restaurants and a museum with seven screens. A film detailing the history of the 125-year-old, 325-meter-high tower will be shown on them. (Did you know the tower was best known for many years as a revolutionary lighted outdoor billboard – for Citroen cars?)
No more major work is planned on the tower for the foreseeable future. But the ongoing maintenance here never ends. The whole structure needs a 60-ton coat of new paint every seven years.
October 6, 2014