When you don’t place a structure – particularly a very tall structure – on a solid foundation, this is what happens. The building starts to lean, further and further each year, and though it may take centuries, it will eventually come crashing down without serious efforts to stabilize it. That’s what is happening to most of these 11 leaning towers of the world, although a few are tilted on purpose.
This infographic from The Economist gives us an idea of just how much many of the buildings on this list are off-kilter, from Big Ben at just 0.26 degrees to the Suurhusen church tower in Germany at 5.19 degrees. Read on to learn more about each leaning tower.
Two Towers of Bologna, Italy
Bologna’s two most prominent towers – both of which lean at a considerable angle – are major landmarks of this Italian city. They were constructed between 1109 and 1119. The taller one is called Asinelli and the shorter Garisenda. Asineli stands at nearly 319 feet in height; it was withstood lightning strikes, fires, collapses and bombing attacks in World War II. Garisenda, which is cited several times in Dante’s Divine Comedy, began slanting in the 14th century due to the softening ground.
Big Ben, London, UK
The British Parliament’s Clock Tower (more commonly known as Big Ben) is leaning north-west by 0.26 degrees, or 17 inches (43.5cm), according to documents that were recently made public. The level of the tilt has increased to 0.9 millimeters a year since 2003, and it seems that underground developments including a parking lot and an extension of the London Underground have caused the problem.
Leaning Church Tower of Suurhusen, Germany
Suurhusen is the world’s most leaning tower that is unintentionally tilted. A late medieval steeple located in northwestern Germany, The Leaning Tower of Suurhusen is a brick gothic church that currently leans at an angle of 5.193 degrees – beating the far more famous Tower of Pisa by 1.22 degrees. It was originally built in the middle Ages on a foundation of oak tree trunks preserved by marshy groundwater; when the land was drained in the 29th century the wood rotted, which caused the tilt.
Bad Frankenhausen Church Tower, Germany
An underground spring that winds beneath the entire town of Bad Frankenhausen in the eastern German state of Thuringia is leaching earth from below, making structures like the church tower extremely unstable. The church’s steeple has been slanting since at least 1640, reaching 4.8 degrees in recent years. Efforts to stabilize it have failed, and it seems that the steeple will soon be lost to collapse.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower was supposed to stand straight and plumb an imperious monument to the trading power of 12th century Pisa. Built on soft clay, however, the tower began to list only a few years after construction began. Upon completion in 1350, the tower leaned about four and half feet, but as time passed, the angle of the 16,000-ton tower became more precarious. By 1990, the tower leaned about 13 feet (4 m) off kilter, and nearly two million pounds of lead ingots had to be placed on one of its sides to prevent its collapse. But the nearest the tower has been to destruction had nothing to do with its famed tilt. Allied forces ordered an American sergeant to blow it up during World War II when they thought the Germans were using it as an observation post. Only the reticence of the 23-year-old American saved the tower.
The Leaning Tower of Nevyansk, Russia
The Leaning Tower of Nevyansk is leaning tower situated in the center of Nevyansk and the most well-known building in the Middle Urals. It was funded by Peter the Great and built in the first half of 18th century by a famous Russian manufacturer Akinfiy Demidov. The height of the tower is 57.5 m (189 ft) from the ground. According to recent measurements, the deviation of the top part of the tower from a right angle is currently 2,20 m (7,2 ft). The exact date of the tower’s building is unknown, different historical sources mention dates between 1721 and 1745.
Leaning Tower of Burano, Italy
Tower of Burano or Church of Saint Martino is situated on the Venetian island Burano (it could more correctly be called an archipelago of four islands linked by bridges). Dating back to 15th century, the church boasts a leaning campanile (bell tower), which locals lovingly refer to as the “drunken” tower.
Leaning Tower in Torun, Poland
The Leaning Tower is undoubtedly the most attractive and famous tower in Toruń. This tower was a typical fortified tower, built as a part of the city walls at the turn of the 14th century clearly as a straight tower. Initially, despite its four-wall foundation, it did not have the front wall, which facilitated hoisting ammunition onto the higher floors. This popular tourist attraction leant as early as the Middle Ages presumably due to the instability of the ground and has been stable ever since. The tilt of the 15-metre (49.2 feet) tower is currently 146 cm (4.8 feet) off the perpendicular on the side of the street.
Oude Kerk, Netherlands
Built in 1246, Oude Kerk (Old Church) is the oldest building in Delft, and its leaning gothic tower was added between 1325 and 1350. Locals have feared that the tower, which was likely built on an old filled-up canal, would come tumbling down, and almost had the tower razed to the level of the church roof in 1843. Oude Kerk is the resting place of famed Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.
Leaning Tower of Bedum, Netherlands
Leaning Tower of Bedum – the leaning church tower of Walfridus in the northern Dutch town of Bedum, also leaning more than the Tower of Pisa. At a 55.86m (183 ft), Pisa’s tower leans about 4m (13 ft), while Bedum’s tower leans 2.61m (8,6 ft) on its height of 35.7m (117 ft). If both towers were the same height, Bedum would have a greater tilt of 6cm (2,4 inches).
Gate of Europe, Capital Gate Tower & Olympic Stadium
Aging structures aren’t the only towers in the world that seem to tilt dangerously close to destruction. Just look at the Capital Gate Tower of Abu Dhabi, a mixed-use skyscraper reaching 520 feet into the sky with a dramatic 18-degree lean to the west. Capital Gate was named the ‘World’s furthest-leaning man-made tower’ by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010.
The tower is stabilized by the world’s first “pre-cambered core”, which includes a huge amount of concrete reinforced with steel, as well as 490 piles drilled nearly 100 feet into the earth. Other intentionally leaning modern wonders include the Tower of Montreal at the Olympic Stadium and the Gate of Europe in Madrid. The Tower of Montreal is officially the world’s tallest leaning tower at 575.8 feet. The Gate of Europe towers are twin 374-foot-tall office buildings with an incline of 15 degrees.