Mar 25, 2013
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Leaning Tower of Pisa

This post continues our series on famous structural failures. More details can be found by taking a look at the seminars located on the “articles” page of

The leaning tower of Pisa is probably the most famous example of placing a structure in a very problematic location. Construction was started in 1174 and completed in 1272.

The Leaning Tower and Subsoil Layers. Source:

The tower is 200 ft. high. The sketch shows the subsoil conditions below the tower to a depth of about 150 ft. The tower started to lean almost immediately with the highest rate of inclination around the end of the 13th. Century. The rate of leaning has been continuously reduced since that time. Various stabilizing features have been incorporated in recent times such as concrete pumped into the ground and the use of support cables.

What are the conclusions we can draw from the tragedy in New Orleans and the structural problems of the Leaning Tower of Pisa? It cannot be forgotten that another hurricane like Katrina or even stronger could hit New Orleans, and the Leaning Tower could continue to become more and more structurally unstable. It is from these failures that we could learn and become more prepared as a society of engineers.

Now, for a moment of reflection:

“A foolish man built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell…” Matthew 7:26-27

Have we learned anything in 2000 years?

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