When will the leaning tower of Pisa fall over? (Thinkstock)
When will the leaning tower of Pisa fall over?
Lexile

You asked us, When will the leaning tower of Pisa fall over?

Pretty much since the first stone was laid, the tower of Pisa in Italy has been a Keystone Kops version of architecture.

Not long after construction began in 1173, when builders reached the third story, the thing began to tilt.

Theyd cleverly built it on a foundation of mud, sand and clay. It was kind of like quicksand, basically.

It took hundreds of years of fits and starts to complete the building. Architects tried columns of different heights to even out the lean which of course made things worse. And giving the tower a bit of an interesting, how should we say, banana shape.

As late as 1935, engineers managed to do exactly the wrong thing to try to shore up the tower.

By the 1990s, it was tilting 5.5 degrees to the south. That was just past the point at which it was supposed to collapse catastrophically.

Finally, someone figured out that it might help to just gently remove some of the soil from under the north side of the building, away from the list. And lo and behold if the good ship Pisa didnt start to right itself.

Now it lists at a comfortable and picturesque 4 degrees. The tower is in no immediate risk of toppling.

Unless theres a massive earthquake. Or a giant or tornado or meteorite or something.

For more stories like this, check us out every day at Smithsonian.com.

Critical thinking challenge: The author compares the tower to the shape of a banana. Which other objects have a similar shape?


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COMMENTS (84)
  • AnnalisaP-1
    6/10/2015 - 09:46 a.m.

    People have asked, "When will the Leaning Tower of Pisa fall over?" In 1173, construction the tower began. Not long after, constructors reached the third floor and by this time, it began to tilt. This tower was built on a foundation of mud, sand, and clay, basically like quicksand. It took centuries for the building to finish construction. Construction workers tried to even out the lean by putting different columns of different heights. By the 1990's, the tower as tilting 5.5 degrees south. That was just pat the point at where the tower was suppose to give way. Eventually, someone figured out that if they removed soil from the north side of the building, it would have a better chance at not falling down. As of right now, the tower stands at a comfortable 4 degrees. I would love to go and visit this tower. To me, this is a very interesting topic and it would be a good experience to learn about a part of history that still stands today.

  • dylanswerdlow1
    6/10/2015 - 12:52 p.m.

    The article I read is about the theory that the leaning Tower of Pisa will soon fall over. When the building was being built in 1173, when workers got to the third story they realized they were building it on a tilt. At one point the tower was tilting 5.5 degrees to the south, which meant it should of toppled and fell. Luckily, in 1935 an engineer was able to take some soil out of the building and have it tilt at only 4 degrees. Now the building is secure and is highly unlikely to fall.

  • nightowl
    6/10/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    the leaning tower of pisa should fall but if they want it the should luike string to it by tying it to the ground

  • Brandon1231-YYCA
    6/10/2015 - 04:59 p.m.

    I think that it is weird to have the leaning tower of Pisa fall over someday because it will kill may people and it is a ancient artifact. If the leaning tower of Pisa fell in the 3rd floor, then it would have killed people around it and many other things. I think that is was pretty smart to dig out some of the dirt on the other side of the tower so that it could have been even. If they never did that, then people would die and many bad things would happen.
    Critical thinking Challenge:The author compares the tower to the shape of a banana. Which other objects have a similar shape? The tower is the shape of a banana because it has that leaning part and curving part and bananas have that too.

  • KiraWvA-4
    6/10/2015 - 06:32 p.m.

    The leaning tower of Piza tilts at about four degrees, so it is in no danger of falling over right now. Originally, construction workers in 1173 discovered that the foundation was laid on a mixture of mud, sand and clay, which acts like a memory foam bed and the tower started to tip when they reached the third floor. The tower was completed, however, and although there have been a few efforts to make it straight, resulting in its bananaesque curve, it persisted in being true to its nature. In the 1990s, the tower was leaning at a precarious 5.5 degrees, and a clever landscape architect or random passerby suggested to just remove some of the dirt from the north side of the building, and Piza began to right itself again. I like this article because it reminded me of a yellow house down near the bus stop in Vermont, which was deteriorating and the eaves looked like they were about to fall in on themselves, but they didn't, even after years of snow and storms. I think the tower of Piza has that persevering nature, too.

  • JonathanAA-4
    6/10/2015 - 07:54 p.m.

    This article is about how the leaning tower of Pisa will maybe sometime fall over. It has been leaning ever since it was built. Scientists saw that one day it might fall over because of the unstable design. I found this article interesting because its good to know the dangers of something before it happens.

  • Hannahmab-3
    6/10/2015 - 08:49 p.m.

    Have you ever wondered if the leaning tower of Pizza would fall over. It is currently in no position to. Construction of the tower began in 1173 and after builders got to the third floor they realized the tower had started to tilt to the south. They tried everything they could to right the building but nothing would work, the had built on a foundation of mud and sand, acting like quicksand for the building. They continued to build and for years they tried to get the tower to not lean, it was at a five point five degree tilt and should have fallen over, when someone finally came up with an idea. They carefully removed some sand and mud from the the other side and the tower tipped back, now it was only at a for degree tilt. So no, right now the tower will not fall over unless there is a big earthquake, tornado, or hurricane.

    I had no idea that the Leaning tower of Pizza was not supposed to be leaning. I had always thought it was built that way and was supposed to lean, I was perplexed as to why though. Now i know and i think it is cool tat it just happened.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    6/10/2015 - 08:51 p.m.

    The leaning tower of Pisa looks pretty fascinating. The tower looks really well-built and it can be a good tourist attraction. The leaning tower of Pisa looks like the Roman Colosseum except its tall instead of wide. I think that the builders should have calculated the design or structure completely before they started to build it. If the tower does fall or look like its falling the news reporters should tell people to get out of the way because if they don't then many people might die or get injured. When the tower falls, it will be a big mess. The people said the the leaning tower of Pisa is pretty steady and it won't fall until a big earthquake, tornado, or meteorite hits the area around it where the impact will be strong enough to make the tower fall.

  • HannahM-3
    6/10/2015 - 09:23 p.m.

    The Leaning Tower of Pisa has been tilted ever since they started building the third floor. Many people have tried fixing it in many ways. First architects tried to change the lengths of the columns, but they just gave it a banana looking shape. In the 1990s, the tower was tilted at an unsteady 5.5. But finally someone figured out that by taking out some of the dirt at one side of the base you could even out the load. Now, the tower stands with a 4 tilt and is far from falling over. I thought that this article was very interesting because it shows that many people think of different ways to come up with a solution. I wish that I can go and see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa before it falls.

  • MGallagher
    6/10/2015 - 09:36 p.m.

    People have been asking, When will the leaning tower of Pisa fall over? The answer to this is that it will not topple over. In the 1990's it was tilting 5.5 degrees south. Now it is leaning 4 degrees south and will not fall unless a catastrophic event, such as a large earthquake, or large meteorite, or tornado, etc. The architects tried many things to keep the tower up, but most made it even worse.

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