I would guess just about everyone has heard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Probably few buildings have inspired more cartoons, interesting photographs, or off-the-wall ideas about how to fix them. Some of the websites I visited even had to include a disclaimer about their “adult” content because the shape of Pisa’s bell tower makes people think of … well, let’s just say that I saw two cartoons suggesting Viagra to make the tower stand up straight.
I vaguely remember reading, some years ago, that the tower had been closed to tourists because it was getting too dangerous. Italy isn’t high on my list of vacation destinations, though (nothing against Italy, but I’d rather visit the British Isles, the Holy Land, Australia/New Zealand, or some Spanish-speaking country, if I had the money to travel), so I gave little thought to the city known primarily to Americans for its famous architectural problem.
Then today at First Thoughts I was reading Second Links (so named because they post First Links in the morning, and Second Links in the afternoon), and was intrigued by a story about the British engineer who solved Pisa’s 800-year-old mystery (why the tower leaned south). Particularly interesting was the fact that some Italians aren’t happy that he stabilized their long-unstable landmark.
I can understand why they didn’t want him to make the tower stand perfectly straight. Who would want to visit the Straight Tower of Pisa? The tourism trade in Pisa suffered enough when the tower was closed, but at least people could still see it from a distance. If the tower no longer leaned at all, who would bother to go to Pisa at all?
But some people think there was a certain appeal in the danger that it could fall. I’m afraid I’ve never found risk appealing, and I certainly would not want to travel to see a building that might fall on me. I can understand better the perspective of those who worried methods of supporting the building that would detract from its artistic appearance, though until they knew that there was a way to fix it without changing its appearance, I would have thought they would rather preserve it even with unsightly supports than have it collapse as other medieval bell towers have.
My final thought after reading the article – if people would just put the thought, effort, and money into solving other problems that they did into this one, imagine how much we could change the world!