What do Barcelona and the Eiffel Tower have to do with each other? To answer this, one must go back in time.
Gustave Eiffel prepares himself for a big presentation proposing his massive steel tower for the upcoming world fair. He’s confident his vision of a grandiose monument to mark the entrance of the exposition will be welcomed with enthusiasm by the city’s top brass.
Contrary to his expectations, Eiffel’s proposal is met with cold eyes and unflattering comments such as ‘eyesore’ and ‘unsightly’. He leaves the meeting dejected, but not defeated.
This rumoured event took place sometime around 1883 or 1884 in the city halls of Barcelona, prior to their upcoming 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition.
You read this right. The Eiffel Tower was allegedly first proposed to be built in Barcelona, not Paris. That is what Barcelona and the Eiffel Tower have to do with each other.
The Eiffel Tower History
The Eiffel Tower was opened to the public on May 6, 1889 for the International Exposition in Paris.
Now before you criticize the decision makers in Barcelona, its important to note that the Eiffel Tower plan was accepted in Paris with some angst. Many also felt the proposed tower would be a massive eyesore. Following the conclusion of the 1889 Paris World Exposition, it was agreed the tower would be dismantled.
Perhaps some of the skeptics thought that even if the tower was a flop with the public, it would only scar the Paris skyline temporarily.
I guess that didn’t work out.
Today, the iconic Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world, attracting some 7 million visitors per year.
Back in Barcelona
So back to Barcelona, where the Arc de Triomf (30 metres tall) ultimately marked the the entrance to the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition.
The impressive Arc de Triomf marks Barcelona’s Parc de la Ciutadella main entrance. It is not, however, one of the main attractions in the city.
Antoni Gaudi’s unique and magnificent Sagrada Familia Basilica is of course the main iconic structure in Barcelona. Still under construction after 138 years, still with no main spire, the final completion is expected in 2026. Even so, 3 million visitors come annually.
Barcelona and the Eiffel Tower in a Parallel Universe
What if a certain key decision was made differently?
The Barcelona decision makers accept Gustave Eiffel’s proposal. The Eiffel Tower is subsequently built at the Parc de la Ciutadella entrance for the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition.
Following the exposition, the Barcelona Eiffel Tower remains standing. It has become an essential communications tower, and becomes the first iconic structure in Barcelona. However the tower shares this fame in later years as the Sagrada Familia Church takes form.
This makes Barcelona the premiere tourist destination in western Europe.
Barcelona and the Eiffel Tower in a Wilder Parallel Universe
Gustave Eiffel’s proposal is successful with the Barcelona top brass and the Eiffel Tower is built for the 1889 Barcelona Universal Exposition.
The Sagrada Familia is concurrently under construction with a 170 metre (558 feet) height planned, one metre lower than the highest local hill. Gaudi feels strongly that his church should not be higher than the natural topography in the area.
Gustave Eiffel of course feels differently, building the 324 metre (1,063 feet) high Eiffel Tower. This puts Gaudi in a quandary, as building the tallest structure Barcelona is his goal. The Eiffel Tower eclipses the planned height of Sagrada Familia by almost double the height.
Gaudi, upset by the rival structure, suddenly has a novel idea. He secretly meets with Gustave Eiffel and the city administration. They make a deal.
Following the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition, Gaudy purchases the Eiffel Tower ultimately incorporates it into the Sagrada Familia as the church’s main spire.
This Familia Sagrada Alt (High Sacred Family) Basilica becomes the most iconic structure in all western Europe (not quite what Barcelona needs to battle over-tourism).
A Digression From Eiffel Tower Facts
I know this post digresses from my usual geologic, history or nature themed posts. Articles related to the Dead Sea, peninsulas, glaciers, mountains, dinosaurs, waterfalls, fossils, crooked buildings, currents, forts, railways, wildlife crossings, temples, castles, and penguins. But hey, a little lighthearted fun and imagination isn’t so bad is it?
Can you think of any other scenarios that could have been if Barcelona had accepted the alleged Eiffel Tower proposal?