Alexandre Gustave Eiffel Facts

The French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) is best known for the Eiffel Tower, built in Paris in 1889.

Born in Dijon, Gustave Eiffel studied at the École Polytechnique and the École Centrale in Paris. He designed numerous bridges, the first in 1858 in Bordeaux, viaducts and exhibition buildings; the peak of exhibition architecture came in 1889, when he built his famous tower in Paris. Throughout his life he worked on innovative structures and especially on the effects of wind load on flat surfaces. In his workshop in Auteuil he built an air gallery for experimental purposes.

The most famous bridge in Eiffel, the Maria Pia Bridge over the Douro in Porto, Portugal (1876), extends 500 feet from a single arch, 200 feet above the high water level, which with additional side piers supports the horizontal superstructure. Also in that year Eiffel collaborated with the architect. L.A. Boileau the Younger in the Bon Marché department store in Paris, the first glass and cast iron department store. A glass wall along all three street fronts, with circular pavilions at the corners, enclosed a shop consisting of open courtyards covered by skylights covering an area of 30,000 square metres. Thin columns supported balconies, bridges and the glass roof. The shop is still standing, although it has a masonry skin added in the 1920s.

The Garabit viaduct of Eiffel on Truyère near Ruines, France, is 1,625 feet long and 400 feet high and has a central span of 210 feet. Other works by Eiffel include a revolving dome for the Nice Observatory and the structure supporting F.A. Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty in New York City (1886).


An associate engineer on the Garabit viaduct, Maurice Koechlin, encouraged Eiffel in his project for the 1889 Paris exhibition tower. It was the factory components, assembled together on the site for the viaduct, that made possible the 984-foot high Eiffel Tower.

Each of the 12,000 different tower components was designed to counteract wind pressure, and 2,500,000 rivets were used to create a continuous structure. Four main pillars, each with a slight curve, anchored to separate foundations incorporated elevators; two acted on a combined principle of pistons and chains, and the two Otis American elevators acted on a hydraulic piston system. Other hydraulic elevator systems connected the first level to the second and the second to the third.

More readings on Alexandre Gustave Eiffel

Jean Prévost, Eiffel (1929), the only monograph on Eiffel, is short and in French. Two publications in English on the Eiffel Tower are Gaston Tissandier, The Eiffel Tower (1889), and Robert M. Vogel, Elevator Systems of the Eiffel Tower, 1889 (1961). Siegfried Giedion, Space, time and architecture: The growth of a new tradition (1941; 5th ed. 1967), colleague

Eiffel with the development of 19th century structural techniques.