Gustave Eiffel 'Would Have a Heart Attack' if He Saw Tower Today

Experts suggest $60M paint job is 'mostly useless' for rust-riddled structure
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2022 10:00 AM CDT
Report: Eiffel's $60M Paint Job 'Mostly Useless'
A woman cools off at a fountain next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris on June 16.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

(Newser) – The 1,083-foot-tall Eiffel Tower is undergoing its "most expensive" and "most inefficient" paint job ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, according to Marianne, which reports the $60 million project will do nothing to treat a significant problem hiding under the Iron Lady's coats: lots and lots of rust. Confidential reports leaked to the French magazine describes the tower as riddled with it, and that rust will only be painted over in a cosmetic face-lift. Early reports indicated the tower would be stripped of all 19 previous coats of paint, including the first four layers of lead paint. But as a result of health concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic, "only 5% will be treated," per the Guardian.

Architect Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower, described the prevention of rust as the most important element to its survival. "Paint is the essential ingredient for protecting a metallic structure and the care with which this is done is the only guarantee of its longevity," he wrote. Yet a 2014 report by expert paint company Expiris found just 10% of newer paint was sticking to the cracked and rusting structure. "It cannot be envisaged to plan for a new application of a coat of paint that will do nothing but increase the risk of a total loss of adhesion in the system," it read. Two years later, a report documented 884 faults, with 68 of those posing a risk to the tower's "durability."

"If Gustave Eiffel visited the place he would have a heart attack," a tower manager tells Marianne, which reports officials aren't keen for a prolonged closure of the monument, which lost $52 million in income while shuttered in 2020. Of the new coats of paint, an expert adds, "at best it will be mostly useless, but at the very worst it will make the defects in the existing layer of paint worse and result in corrosion." The company overseeing the tower couldn't be reached for comment, per Reuters. But on the tower's website, architect and engineer Bertrand Lemoine claims "the enemy of iron is corrosion, caused by water and air that gradually oxidize iron exposed to open air ... so if it is repainted, the Eiffel Tower can last ... forever." (Read more Eiffel Tower stories.)

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