The Eiffel Tower is an iconic monument known the world over that around 7 million every year head to Paris to visit. It is therefore the most popular monument in the world that has ticketed entry. No-one would argue the fact that the views of the city below as you climb the tower are worth the price you have to pay, particularly if it is the first time you ever visit this testament to ingenious design and engineering,.
However, if you have never been before, you may not be aware of another element that makes this prestigious landmark incredible. We are referring to the incredible Eiffel Tower Illuminations and Light Shows.
What Are The Eiffel Tower Illuminations?
Modern Eiffel Tower Illuminations and light shows occur every night, every hour after sundown until 1 am. For 5 minutes the Tower is aglow in a sparkling golden color. The only light show that lasts longer is the final one of the night at 1 am when it lasts for 10 minutes and includes the switching off of the Tower’s normal orange and yellow lighting.
How It’s Lit
The modern setup was first introduced in 1985 by a French engineer called Pierre Bideau. The system was inaugurated on the 31st of December that year and was able to produce a stunning and vivid lighting display by using 336 projectors with orange-yellow sodium lamps placed on top of them.
These specially designed projectors allowed the Eiffel Tower to actually be illuminated from inside the structure, rather than shining light on it from an outside source. Therefore, the beams of bright light shone up from the Tower’s bottom and radiated out. This meant that whenever it was dark, the Tower could still be seen miles and miles away.
Beacon and Sparkler Bulbs Introduction
The sparkling effect in the light shows is a relatively new introduction, being first used in 1999 as part of the city’s countdown to the year 2000. The lighting effect is produced by using a staggering 20,000 individual 5 watt bulbs. On each side of the Tower, there has been 5,000 of these bulbs installed to give a truly amazing 360 degrees of sparkling light.
The beacon that shone out from the top of the tower in two different directions was actually created using 4 ‘marine-type’ motorized projectors. These projectors were controlled by automated computer systems and the beams had a reach of an awesome 80 kilometers.
The rotational sweep of each individual light is 90 degrees and when they are used in sync, they form a double beam that can pivot around a full 360 degrees. The light bulbs used for the beacon were xenon 6,000 watt models chosen for their long lifespan of 1,200 hours and were cooled to stop them from suffering damage due to overheating. Conversely, there is also a heating system that is automatically switched on when temperatures drop below 0 degrees Centigrade.
While you lift your chin off the floor, you might be wondering about the cost and energy usage. Intriguingly though, these lights are incredibly energy-efficient as the city wanted to invest in ways to keep its carbon footprint low.
An Installation As Impressive As The Spectacle Itself
As amazing as the light shows are, and they are truly among the most beautiful man-made creations in this world; the installation process is almost as impressive and maybe even in some ways, more impressive than the spectacle itself. Be careful though, as silly EU law can prevent the public from sharing pictures of this modern spectacle at night.
To install the 20,000 light bulbs, 25 experienced and highly trained mountain climbers were required to work on the project for 5 months. They had 40 km of electrical cords and light strings to manage.
Included in the installation also are 10,000 important joints and 80,000 other important parts, all metal, that weigh around 60 tons. It was in no way a small feat. While the mountain climbers working on the structure and lighting system were undoubtedly at the top of their field, there was 10,000 square meters of safety netting used, just in case.
So if you are ever in Paris, and witness the marvelous light show and enjoy seeing the iconic national treasure lit up in the night sky – remember what went into getting it to that stage.
Considering the amount of work that went into making the light shows a spectacular spectacle, you might be even more amazed to realize that the lighting used was never designed to last and soon after, in 2003 the lighting system was replaced with a new one. This was was designed to last for 10 years at the very least.
Over the years there have been notable deviations from the normal lighting systems, for specific celebrations and important occasions. This includes:
- 1978 – For Christmas time in 1978, the Eiffel Tower was transformed into a Christmas Tree with the use of 30,000 individual lamps placed on the landmark itself.
- 24th to the 29th of January – In recognition and celebration of the Chinese New Year, the Tower was caked in red light. An ingenious set of projectors on the outside of the monument were used to coat the Parisian monument in scarlet red light. Utility company EDF collaborated to produce this amazing illumination event.
- 9th of May 2006 – The Tower turned blue in celebration of Europe Day’s 20th anniversary
- 22nd of October to 31st of December 2009 – To mark the 120th birthday of the Tower, a special light show was put on every single morning between the 22nd of October and the 31st of January.
Humans are always trying to fight against the dark…that’s what the invention of electricity and lighting solutions through the years have meant for us. While it is easy to see the Eiffel Tower illuminations and light shows as just a spectacle they can also be seen as being a fitting reminder of how far we have come.