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EIFFEL: THE IRON LADY MOVES

 

By Luis Felipe Sexto   

She moves with the rhythm of the music and the invitation of the wind. She is capable of rhythmically ascillating from six to seven cetimeters. 

The symbol of France stands above the 300 meters height over the World. A unique steel shape which was the heighest construction in the universe until the Empire State Building was buildt. It is a mass of 10 000 tones which stands imposing to offer shelter to more than six million visitors a year. It is precisely the spot where its promotor, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, oppened an office to personally control the flow and the incomes comming from the enthusiasts who since the last few years of the 19th century felt atracted by this work classified as a breaker pf paradigms.

The tower was built to celebrate the centenary of the French revolution and as part of the great Universal Exhibition in Paris which was organized to that purpose in 1889. The analysis of the projects had already begun five years earlier, by the engeneers Maurice Koechlin, Emile Nouguier and the architect Stephen Sauvestre, with the decesive support of the already famous engeneer Gustave Eiffel and his company.

The construction work took two years, two months and five days. The Seine increased its flow with the sweat of the 121 workers who ensembled all of the 18 000 pieces that made up “the heighest and most daring of the human monuments” from the 19th century. More than two million rivets, the same kind as were used for the making of boilers and engines, were used. The Iron Lady, as it is tenderly called, is kept open every day in the year. Specially Tuesdays, when the rest of the museums do not open, are very intense days for the personnel who looks after the tourists. From the thousands of people who are in love with her, there are only 34 who are allowed to maintain her and they are allowed to look even in the most intricate and intimate sites. Simple and rash people, maintenance people who day after day inspect and guarantee the disponibility of all of the systems. Among the technical personel we may find the electrisists, mechanics, plumbers, painters, locksmiths, carpinters and the operators for the computers and automatic machines. There are also administrative personel, security guards, sellers, cookers and other employees who serve the distinguished lady. The tower spends 7 500 MW-h electricity a year, and from those 705 are consumed in climatization and 580 in lights.

There are 18 transformers, three emergency plants and a network of 80 kilometers of electric cable. She is illuminated by more than 10 000 lamps of 100 different models. The keepers, with a backpack on their shoulders, need to have the ability of a mountain climber to substitute the light bulbs that have gone out and to give maintenance to the network. There are three lifts that transport the visitors to the second floor. There are another four to guarantee movement from the second level to the top. And one of them is exclusively reserved for those who visit the Julius Vern restaurant.

Otis Elevator Company has been in charge of modernizing and mantaining the lifts of the Tower. This has been a very difficult task since there are still the original hydraulic ones, with more than 100 years, together with the modern ones that have been integrated. These equipment, their cabins, electrical systems and computer control, are the object of inspections and daily and routine work of maintenance. And how has this majestic work managed to fool time? It is because it has evolved with life. It has suffered the reinforcement of several parts of the original structure, which at some point in time for several reasons may have been debilitated or have collapesed.

It has changed its color six times. It has suffered radical transformations in the illumination effects. It has also undergone the construction of several pavillions and restaurants, shops, service rooms, machine rooms, new lifts.... From a security point of view, there are many eyes that are looking at it day and night. It is protected with a system against fire which has more than 500 sensors, sprays, water intakes and 200 fire extinguisher conveniently distributed. The tower needs to be cover every five years to preserve its health. For that she requieres, nothing less than ... 50 tones of painting! She is also a burocrat and very organizad: she demands two tones of paper a year to issue the entrance tickets. Sometimes she decides to dance. Yes, happy and capricious despite her stiffness, she moves to the sound of music and the invitation of the wind. She is capable of swinging rythmically with an amplitude of six to seven centimeters. Some other times she wants to be taller and she grows about 18 centimetres when the heat causes her structure to expand. Even though she may not complain, she has grown almost 12 meters in 111 thanks to an antenna that elevates her 324 meters closer to the sky.

Ah, what an admired lady! Beautiful, tall, with a slim waist and broad hips.

*Traslation: Karén López.  

 

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