Built for the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris and meant to be taken down, the Eiffel Tower is today the symbol of Paris, but also a symbol of peace.
Designed by engineer Gustave Eiffel, who had already built the iron framework of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, this 300 meter high tower was the highest building in the world at the time and remained so until 1930. However, it was controversial. Originally built to be taken down later, it eventually remained because it was used as a radio antenna.
In 1889, a famous peace man visited the tower: Gandhi himself. As he reminded his Parisian audience in 1931 at Magic City – and as he had written some years before in his autobiography -, Gandhi decided to go to Paris to visit the Universal Exhibition and the Eiffel Tower, while he was studying in London. He recalls that the tower had detractors at the time, among which Tolstoi, that Gandhi admired. The Russian writer thought that the tower was “a monument to man’s folly, and not to wisdom”; according to him, this is the work of an individual under the influence of tobacco, “for tobacco darkens the intellect and leads to castles in the air”. To Gandhi however, the Tower is “the toy of the Exhibition […] and an excellent proof of us all being children, seduced by rattles”. He behaved like a child himself: he went twice or three times up the Tower and even ate at the restaurant, just for the pleasure of saying that he had eaten very high!
On September 14th, 1999, the International Year for the Culture of Peace was launched in Paris by UNESCO. The goal of this year was to mobilise the public in order to accelerate the change from a culture of war and violence to a culture of peace and non-violence. On this occasion, the Eiffel Tower was made “Culture of Peace Messenger Site” by UNESCO, in the presence of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates such as Rigoberta Menchu and Shimon Peres. A plaque pays tribute to this distinction on the second floor of the Tower: it was inaugurated by the Mayor of Paris. Federico Mayor, then Director General of UNESCO, was hoping that many cities around the world would likewise choose a monument to carry a message of peace and celebrate peace and non-violence.