Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday in History: Leaning

The tower in 2013
photo by W. Lloyd MacKenzie
via wikipedia
On this day in history in 1964, the Italian city of Pisa asked the world to come and keep its leaning tower from falling over.
Experts from all over the globe worked together to preserve the structure that had made the city famous: historians, engineers, and mathematicians toiled to find a solution. They stuck 800 tons of lead counterweights on one side and did tests, theorizing scenarios for years, but in 1989 when another Tuscan tower toppled, they knew something had to be done.
Nearby apartments were vacated. The tower’s bells were removed to relieve it of their weight. The tower was tied down with cables to keep it from falling. For ten years, workers labored to remove 38 cubic meters of soil in order to straighten the Leaning-Too-Far Tower of Pisa. Though the tower was restored to its “original” 1838 angle and declared stable for 300 years in 2001, more soil was removed in 2008. This time, the experts declared that it had stopped moving for the first time in its history.
Capital Gate in 2013
photo by FritzDaCat
via wikipedia
Today, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the most famous leaning tower, but there are others that lean, and at more dangerous an angle. While Pisa’s tower tilts at only 3.99 degrees, the Guinness Book of World Records has the Leaning tower of Suurhausen in Germany down as the most (accidentally) tilted building in the world at an angle of 5.19 degrees. Buildings tilted on purpose don’t count: the Capital Gate building in Abu Dhabi leans 18 degrees to the west, but the architect designed it that way. We’ll see if the Capital Gate building needs a face lift in about eight hundred years.

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