Parisians can rest easy. Their iconic Eiffel Tower is in no more danger of an architectural intervention than New York's Lady Liberty or Cairo's Great Pyramid. Unfortunately, ARCHITECT reported on March 17 that a temporary addition was planned after Paris-based Serero Architects sent an e-mail touting its "new design for the restructuring of the public spaces of the Eiffel Tower" and claiming that "[t]he structure is expected to be assembled for the 120th anniversary of the tower construction."
The reports of such a design competition and plans to temporarily augment the Eiffel Tower's public spaces are "a hoax," according to the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, the government-contracted firm that manages the tower.
At the time our article was posted, the society had not responded to requests for information about the "call to architects" to which Serero Architects claimed—in an attachment to its e-mail—its design was submitted. A statement released March 26 by Isabelle Esnous, the society's communications chief, refutes that there was ever any call to architects regarding plans to redevelop the top of the monument and that Serero Architects never presented themselves as candidates for such a competition.
In an interview for our article (below, left in its original form), principal David Serero stated that his firm's project was "selected with the condition to verify its technical feasibility. Within the next two months, we will be able to get a definite answer." Serero further said, "We are expected to install it in the spring 2009 for a period of one year."
Other media outlets that ran with the story included The Guardian, The New York Times, Archinect, and Bustler. In a March 27 New York Times article about the hoax, Serero is reported as saying that his firm's proposal was spontaneous and was submitted to the tower's management organization on a lark. (Read the article here.)
Eiffel Tower to Get Anniversary AdditionSerero Architects wins an open call for a temporary redesign of public areas; proposal would more than double the size of the tower's highest observation platform.
In preparation for the celebration of the Eiffel Tower's 120th anniversary in 2009, the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (the government-contracted organization that operates the iconic structure) issued an open call for architects to redesign any of the tower's public reception and access areas. In early March, Paris-based Serero Architects was given the nod for its proposed temporary addition to the Eiffel Tower's top observation platform.
In developing a design that would improve accessibility, Serero analyzed how the monument's 6 million to 7 million annual visitors wish to explore the tower and found that roughly 95 percent want to go directly to the third floor, its highest observation level. However, the small capacity of the existing 280-square-meter platform results in wait times of at least 35 minutes and as long as an hour and 10 minutes, creating crowd management problems for staff, the architects found.
To improve this situation, the firm has proposed a temporary third-level platform expansion that more than doubles the visitors' area, to 580 square meters. Constructed of a lightweight carbon Kevlar material, steel connectors, and metal mesh in three separate structural components, the expanded deck would allow an estimated 1,700 visitors per hour to access the tower's top floor.
The estimated 1.3 million euro design employs three-dimensional cross-bracing beams and echoes the curved lines of the tower, creating a woven pattern that delivers high structural performance, according to the architects. Principal David Serero says the firm's proposal has been accepted by the Eiffel Tower society, pending verification of its technical feasibility. It is expected to be installed sometime in the spring of 2009 and will remain in place for one year.
Such an alteration, however temporary, to a structure of such historical and cultural importance to Parisians can be expected to draw criticism, but Serero thinks the project will force people to reconsider the tower's silhouette and purpose: "Most of the people in Paris ignore the tower. They don't look at it and often cannot really see it, as the city fabric is very dense," says Serero. "Once the platform is built, I am sure that people will wonder about the way it was before. [Ours] is therefore a strategy to give attention to this monument."
More information about the Eiffel Tower proposal, including renderings and technical data, can be found at www.serero.com.