When the French government held a competition to see who would design the structure, no one gave bridge builder Gustave Eiffel a chance.
Even after being chosen, Eiffel’s design was greeted with extreme skepticism and controversy. Many thought that the tower, made almost exclusively of iron, was ugly, and would prove to be an eyesore amidst the breathtaking Paris skyline. An official protest was organized, consisting of 300 of the most well respected architects and French artists of the day, to discontinue the building of the tower. They drafted a petition for the Commissioner of the exposition…
“We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment 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, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.”
This is humorous for us to read because we know that today, 126 years later, that “gigantic black smokestack” is one of the most romantic and beautiful sights not only in Paris, but in all the world. At the time though, Gustave Eiffel didn’t know that, but he was able to see it.
To be an artist is to put our faith not in the present that we know, but in the future that we see.
To be an artist is to see what other can’t, or refuse to.
To be an artist is to find the bravery to shun the majority.
To be an artist is to, at times, stand on the side of the minority and dare greatly.
Happy Birthday Eiffel Tower.