Gustave Eiffel was born in Dijon, France in 1932, he graduated from the Ecole Central des Arts et Manufactures in 1855. Post-graduation, 1855 he decides to get a specialization in metal construction to help him with his future and love for architecture. With this degree, he helped build numerous bridges all over France and around the world which I will discuss later. He spends several years in South-West France, where he supervised work on the massive railway bridge in Bordeaux. This is where he learned how to manage people and learned a lot about practical engineering rather than just from his studies. Known as the “Magician of Iron,” Gustave Eiffel revolutionized the worlds architecture, often referred to as the best architects of his era. With the industrial revolution in full running order, Eiffel was emerging an emerging architect, he had plenty of metal at his fingertips and had the man power to get it produced in the factories. This really helped Eiffel be in complete control of his designs. He spent his early years working on small bridges around France but he worked up to being an international icon as he helped with the panama dam and the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel tower.After graduating Eiffel planned to work with his uncle in a vinegar distillery. However, this fell through due to family disputes. A couple years later Eiffel eventually landed a job at an engineering firm, Compagnie des chemis de fer de I’Oustan, working under Charles Nepveu. Nepvue was a prominent official of the Society of Civil Engineering in France, and a manufacturer of steam engines and railway equipment. Quickly after Eiffel receives the job, Nepvue’s company files for bankruptcy. Shortly thereafter Nepvue gives Eiffel a job in the research department in Paris after the Brussels department was acquired. One of Eiffels’ first jobs was to work as an architect/engineer to design two viaducts for a railway line going from Lyon to Bordeaux, based on commission. His first work of the job was the Bordeaux Bridge that required hydraulics and air caissons. Eiffel really stood up for the occasion as the Bordeaux bridge still remains one of the finest works of the modern engineer. (Vost, Jean. Eiffel;. Paris: Rider, 1929.) By using compressed air, that Eiffel engineered, still is used on foundation work across the globe. From here Eiffel used his specialization in metal to build many very well-known iron bridges all over France. Eiffel rose in ranks and landed a head engineering job at Compagnie Belge. This is where he started making his mark on modern architecture and many of his small projects are still standing today.
Eiffel led many construction projects on vast religious structures. He designed synagogues, churches, and other worship sites across the globe spanning a couple different continents. This interested me when I was planning out my paper because I am involved in learning about different religions from all different cultures and enjoy visiting other religious worshipping sites. Eiffel and his firm constructed the Eglise Notre-Dame-Des-Champs in Paris, France. At one point this structure stood to pray to the Roman God Mercury, then later, to praise Mary. The original structured was described to have extensive light fixtures and beautiful glass, but it was destroyed in the French Revolution. The whole building structure has a very Roman style to it. The small Synagogue in Rue de Passarella in Paris, is one of the top attractions in Paris, which people come from all over to view its unique and old architecture was made by Gustave Eiffel. The Ark in which one of the original Torah is held is very expensive and very old. There is a religious temple at a nice art history museum in Israel, however the temple was rebuilt after it was vandalized. He helped design other religious churches in Prue, Mexico, they were named Cathedral of San Pedro de Tacna and Iglesia de Stanta Barbara, respectively. He also built a church in Baja, California. Which he was awarded a notable accolade for its design and construction. It was the first pre-made iron church that was first acquired by Brussels and then relocated all the way down in Mexico. On a trip down to Mexico, I was able to actually visit this cathedral. While I did not know then, but Gustave Eiffel was the architect who designed it. It was truly breathtaking; the design is most interesting as the archway is huge and has very good attention to detail. He was able to construct huge pieces of work like this and ship it across oceans and many time zones to be put together elsewhere like a puzzle piece. This was truly fascinating to me and I had no idea this was possible for his time. I always thought that construction had to be done at one place built from bottom to top, but learning that this was designed somewhere and put together was amazing to me.
Compagnia Beige, Eiffel’s employer, eventually was starting to trend downhill, Eiffel made the decision to become a freelance independent consulting engineer. He started working with very prominent figures of the time such as Jean Baptiste Kranz and the Egyptian government. They hired him to build bridges, viaducts, and buildings across the globe, spanning to countries such as; Egypt, Chile, Romania, Portugal, Span, Peru, and Bolivia. During this time, he started to experiment with iron and learn its advantageous properties such as its strength and elasticity. It was here that Eiffel came up with a theory that disproved previous ones. He said how wrought-iron construction out preformed previous metals and Iron could withstand higher wind levels.
Further into the timeframe of Gustave Eiffel’s life, after becoming more well known in the engineering business, Eiffel had the funds to start a company with a wealthy engineer Theophile Seyrig, under the company name of Eiffel at Cie. This company was known for the construction of bridges, especially metal bridges. They experimented with lighter and stronger metals to construct these bridges, most are still standing today. Later, the company rose to high prestige when they acquired two important contracts. They built a bridge over the river Douro in Portugal and the other for a new railway terminus for the railroad from Vienna to Budapest. Gustave Eiffel’s bridge structures used innovated and elaborate contortions of metal. He actually found a way to get metal to weigh less but still hold its strength. This was a revolutionary technique created for the time, he called it cantilever. He used this technique for the construction of the viaduct. A viaduct is a long bridge like structure, typically a series of arches, carrying a road or railroad across a valley or other low ground. Since trains were a primary means of travel, and a huge part of the economy due to importing and exporting goods, this technique revolutionized the world around Eiffel. This bridge brought much attention to Eiffel at Cie. This project was so important it was ceremonially opened b King Luis I and Queen Maria Pia. The massive 525 ft. steel arched Ponte Maria Pia Bridge was completed in a little under a year. His design and techniques used was far less than that of his competitors which ultimately got him more jobs and was a stepping stone into his fame.
The Ponte Dona Maria was the other major structure that lead to Gustave Eiffel’s fame to rise. This was built of wrought iron, with the total length of 1158 feet and a height of approximately 197 feet. For the time, its arch way was very innovative and immense compared to other structures. It was built out from the side of the canyon, which supported the lateral pressure of the arch at the ends of the bridge. The abutments weight was supported by cables that were tired to the top of the piers which supported the deck. Similar to a modern suspension bridge. (link). Final construction of the Ponta Dona Maria bridge was completed in late 1877. Years later it was made into a national monument and happened to be the largest bridge of its type for the time.
After finally making his own company from the support of his mother, Eiffel forged ahead to implicate new methods in his buildings. The first of many significant works in his company was the Sioule Bridge, which when finished, was to become the tallest bridge in the world. Since Eiffel was gaining more capital and resources he was able to experiment with more efficient methods and materials to use on future builds. Wrought-iron had a reputation of being weak and not sturdy so Eiffel was able to figure out that it was actually more flexible and stronger to withstand higher winds and higher altitudes. Many structures at the time were built with straight pieces for sturdiness. However, Eiffel found the idea of curving or bending the edges of the piers to create a longer lasting more stable base. Which yields a more solid structure. He also created “launching,” which was very innovative and effective. Which was a technique used to be more efficient in building a bridge. It worked as a giant seesaw that used rockers to place pieces of the bridge into place rather than having raw manpower do the work. This created a faster work environment because you weren’t relying on the manpower to do all of the work, because they had fatigue overtime. They created a more efficient and precise work. The Budapest-Nyugati is another branch of the Eiffel Company. It was one of three main railway terminals in Budapest, Hungary. Extremely large and resembles the Kings Cross structure in England. This was a major railway terminal in Budapest, thus connecting to another two stations.
Eiffel also took on a lot of project abroad in countries such as; Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, Peru and other South and Central American countries.