Eiffel’s Apartment and the Architecture of Dreams

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  eScholarship provides open access, scholarly publishingservices to the University of California and delivers a dynamicresearch platform to scholars worldwide. Room One ThousandUC Berkeley Peer ReviewedTitle: Eiffel’s Apartment and the Architecture of Dreams Journal Issue: Room One Thousand, 1(1) Author: Greene, Gina Publication Date: 2013 Publication Info: Room One Thousand Permalink: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/6tq4c6js Keywords: Eiffel Tower, Paris, Exposition Universelle, architectural innovation Local Identifier:  ucbarchitecture_rm1000_20310 Abstract: No abstract available at this time. Copyright Information:  All rights reserved unless otherwise indicated. Contact the author or srcinal publisher for anynecessary permissions. eScholarship is not the copyright owner for deposited works. Learn moreat http://www.escholarship.org/help_copyright.html#reuse  Gina Greene  Eiffel’s Apartment and the Architecture of Dreams [T]he three friends returned to their slumbers. Could they have found a calmer or more peaceful spot to sleep in? On the earth, houses, towns, cottages, and country feel every shock given to the exterior of the globe. On sea, the vessels rocked by the waves are still in motion; in the air, the balloon oscillates incessantly on the fluid strata of divers densities. This projectile alone, floating in perfect space, in the midst of perfect silence, offered perfect repose.--Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon , 18901Who among us, in his idle hours, has not taken a delicious pleasure in constructing for himself a model apartment, a dream house, a house of dreams? --Charles Baudelaire, 18522 In 1890, the year after the Eiffel ower opened as the centerpiece of the Paris  Exposition Universelle,  writer Henri Girard declared, in a small  volume dedicated to La our Eiffel de rois Cent Métres, that its designer, Gustave Eiffel, had become “the object of general envy” amongst the denizens of Paris [Fig.1]. 3  Tis envy, according to Girard, was inspired not by the fame that had accrued upon its designer, or the fortune the tower generated but, rather, from a single design feature he had built into the plan. Eiffel had installed a private apartment at the summit of his colossal tower to which he alone had access.  Unlike the rest of the tower, the apartment was not notable for its iterations of wrought iron modernity and technological prowess. Rather, it was “furnished in the simple style dear to scientists  , ”   according to Girard, and replete with the wooden cabinets and tables, velvet settees, and flocked wallpaper worthy of any good bourgeois. 4    Yet  ,   despite its commonplace appearance  ,   “[c]ountless numbers of people,” Girard  wrote, “have wanted to share the eyrie   of the eminent engineer. He has received innumerable letters offering him a small fortune to rent his “  pied à terre  ” by the night,” he continued, yet all had been refused. 5   What was the appeal of this refuge perched atop the tower? Girard mused upon the joys such a dwelling might offer a man like Eiffel, “far from the noises and from human suffering.” “In the daytime,” he wrote, “he can look out on the splendors of Paris…At night, in the clouds, soothed by the singing wind, he falls asleep by the light of the eternally  watchful stars. Is there anyone who can describe to us the dreams that he has in his heavenly residence?” 6  It is tempting to situate this  pied à  terre   in the realm of the domestic. Viewed from this perspective, one can understand the Eiffel apartment as an iteration of domesticity antithetical to the normative space of his other residences: an estate in the French countryside and a massive stone hôtel particulier   on the Rue Rabelais in Paris replete with French historicist furniture, chandeliers, objets d’art  , paintings, and other signifiers of upper-class domesticity in the late nineteenth century.But the installation of such an abode, buffeted by constant wind and cold almost 1,000 feet from the ground, clearly exceeded the bounds of banal, earthbound domesticity and bourgeois respectability. Indeed, such a framework for interpretation is excessively reductive, as the tower apartment so thoroughly foils all notions of traditional domesticity that it clearly defies categorization as such. It was a private space embedded  within the very body of a public, purpose-built spectacle. It was an  interior on a structure that, with its open lattice-work frame and exposed staircases, was defined almost entirely by its exteriority and transparency. It represented height firmly anchored to the ground. It was, to borrow  Walter Benjamin’s poetic description of the Paris arcades, like other enigmatic “dream” structures of the nineteenth century, “both house and stars.” 7  Te Eiffel ower was at the epicenter of a constellation of dreams: of technological progress, modernity, and national prestige. Indeed the metaphor of the dream might provide a more appropriate approach to interpreting such an irrational space. What dreams, motivations and aspirations inspired Eiffel to build his tower-top apartment in the first Figure 1: Eiffel Tower, Anonymous View of the Tower, 1889, photograph.Figure 7 (Preceeding page): Alberto Santos-Dumont circling the Eiffel Tower. Reproduced in Gustave Eiffel, La tour Eiffel en 1900  , p. 263.photograph.
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