Repainting the Eiffel Tower

Posted by Josh on 19th Mar 2024 in the blog in the french culture category

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If you’ve ever seen a vintage Parisian postcard or an old film set in the French capital, you may have noticed something strange about the Eiffel Tower: it’s a different colour! This isn’t a trick of the light or the result of seeing the past through rose-tinted glasses, but rather a reflection of the fact that the famous Tower has been repainted in a number of different colours since it was first constructed.

Gustave Eiffel, (who also designed the Statue of Liberty) created the tower in 1889 for the Paris Exposition. But, contrary to Eiffel’s wishes, the Tower was painted a maroon colour for its inauguration — hence the striking colour of the Tower as seen in pictures of the 1889 Paris Exhibition.

The paint isn’t purely decorative. The Tower is made from a material called puddle iron, and the paint protects it from oxidisation. Otherwise the Tower would likely be a bright orange colour from all the rust — not the most glamorous of looks!

Since it was built, the Tower has been painted a number of different colours, from ochre to brown to silver. It takes sixty tonnes of paint and sometimes up to three years to complete the process; but it doesn’t take long for the paint to wear off, so the Tower has to be repainted on average every seven years, although it isn’t always repainted a different colour. Nor has it been painted in any particularly bold or outlandish colours, such as green or pink or blue — although who knows what the Council of Paris might decide on in the future?

In fact, the Tower is due to be painted in gold — Eiffel’s original choice — for the first time this year, in honour of the Olympic Games being hosted in the city. Given that the Tower has been painted bronze and silver in the past, the French clearly have their eyes on more than a few gold medals with this makeover!

It’s expected to cost 50 million euros, but you can be assured it will look dazzling, especially on a sunny day (at least until the paint starts to wear off…). Time to start making bets as to what the next shade will be!

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