The First Sketch of the Eiffel Tower

The First Sketch of the Eiffel Tower. ETH Zürich University Archives, ETH Library, CH-001807-7:Hs 1092:1
The First Sketch of the Eiffel Tower. ETH Zürich University Archives, ETH Library, CH-001807-7:Hs 1092:1

Maurice Koechlin (1856-1946), son of a middle-class Alsatian family, came to Zurich in 1873 to study engineering at the then Federal Polytechnic (now ETH Zurich). One of his professors was Karl Culmann, who taught his own design method of graphic statics in railway, road and bridge construction.

Koechlin’s outstanding degree and two years of professional experience as an engineer at the “Chemin de Fer de l’Est” enabled him to join the renowned and internationally active engineering firm Gustave Eiffel in 1879. As one of Eiffel’s engineers, Koechlin designed the supporting iron scaffolding inside the New York Statue of Liberty.

When the construction of a tower as a public landmark was discussed in the run-up to the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, Koechlin took up the suggestion. Together with Eiffel’s long-time employee Emile Nougier, he developed the idea in 1884 of building a lattice mast 300 metres high. The sketch clearly shows how important the height of the building was: the tallest building in the world was to be higher than Notre-Dame de Paris, the Statue of Liberty, three times the column of Place Vendôme, the Arc de Triomphe, and a six-storey building put together.

Link to the document:  Pylône de 300 mètres de hauteur pour la ville de Paris 1889

The design of the “Pylone de 300 mètres” is based on the principles of applied graphic statics and is the demonstration of the skills of civil engineering. Accordingly, it marked the beginning of a broad discussion between proponents and opponents of an iron symbol of industry in the heart of the city of Paris. After all, it was Eiffel whose financial strength and reputation ensured that the tower was built for and maintained after the World’s Fair.


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