Firm wants to turn Eiffel Tower into "giant tree"

PARIS Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:33pm EST

An aerial view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Bastille Day July 14, 2011.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau

An aerial view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Bastille Day July 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau

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PARIS (Reuters) - A French company wants to turn the Eiffel Tower into a heaving, breathing, botanical giant by draping its mass of metal struts and rivets under a mantle made of 600,000 plants.

The plan to transform one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world into a vast environmental curiosity as well is, for now, little more than the dream of an urban planning consultancy that would gain in fame if the dream became reality.

The idea, which has not so far been officially endorsed by Paris City Hall or the company that operates the Eiffel Tower, would transform the three-floor edifice of more than 300 meters (yards) into something akin to a very tall, and growing, Christmas tree.

Ginger, the consultancy promoting it, issued a statement on Wednesday to defend a project that it said would symbolize the reconciliation of nature and mankind as the world's population heads for nine billion, seven billion of whom would live in urban areas.

Either way the project would amount to the most ambitious remake in the life of the tower built by Gustave Eiffel for a world fair in 1889.

The tower, which underwent a lesser revamp with the addition of 10,000 flickering light bulbs a decade ago, draws about seven million visitors a year.

Clad in a new coat of living greenery it could be expected to also provide a perch for many insects and birds, among them perhaps the not-so-welcome pigeons that irritate many city-dwellers.

"Should it not be the duty of engineers to imagine a new future where nature is brought back into the heart of the city," said a statement from Ginger.

For now at least, it still has to convince.

Following the leak in Le Figaro newspaper, the company that operates the tower, SETE, issued a statement saying neither it nor Paris City Hall were associated with the proposal as laid out in the newspaper.

According to Le Figaro newspaper, which leaked many of the technical aspects of the proposal, the idea would be to start work next year, connecting 12 tonnes of tubing to the tower's struts.

Thousands of hemp or sack-cloth bags that would carry soil and a large variety of plants would be added gradually, working from the bottom upwards in the same way as a plant grows, over the second half of 2012.

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