Today, let’s talk about architecture. Particularly, let’s talk about the work of Gustave Eiffel.
Eiffel was a bridge engineer. He worked in iron – lots of iron.
In 1886, the French gifted Frederic Bartoldi’s sculpture Liberty Enlightening the World to the United States. Today, we call this sculpture “The Statue of Liberty.”
Although the sculpture itself was Bartoldi’s the little known Eiffel was responsible for the construction of the interior lattice work that supports the sculpture. The exterior is actually a very, very thin sheet of metal over a much heavier, studier design.
Eiffel’s contribution was appreciated but went largely unnoticed when compared to Bartoldi’s artwork. And Bartoldi’s artwork certainly deserved notice. It is a magnificent sculpture and it rightly has a place as one of the lasting symbols of American freedom.
But Eiffel wanted to build something magnificent, and for the 1889 Paris Exposition, he engineered and constructed the Eiffel Tower. It is a magnificent monstrosity of iron, an engineering masterpiece.
But let’s consider the differences.
In “The Statue of Liberty”, engineering took second place to beauty, art and expression. The engineering supported a masterpiece of art. In the Eiffel Tower, we have all engineering – which has a beauty of a different kind, a functional magnificence.
The tower is bare iron, a stark reality. The Statue is attired and adorned. It sits on a pedestal of magnificence. The tower declares engineering for the sake of engineering. The Statue sits upon the engineering, but becomes something more.
Both are amazing, but for different reasons – despite the fact that the same engineering genius lay behind both of them.
What kind of congregation do you lead or worship with? One that is all function like the Eiffel Tower or function wrapped in art? Neither is better than the other, and each has its place. But it is an interesting dichotomy worth exploring.