Another crack at the tower

Anyone who visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa before 1990 (when it was closed to visitors) will never forget the feeling: as you toured the magnificent structure, you couldn’t help but think that its demise was imminent. I preferred observing it from the ground, and craning my neck for full bent effect.

Pisans apparently feel the same way, with reports this week of new work to shore up the world’s most famous construction mistake (closely followed by Montréal’s Olympic Stadium). If the work is successful (there have been many past attempts, including the “correction” made during construction in the 13th century, which is still visible) the tower could re-open to visitors this year.

Braces to support the tower during the excavation work have already been put in place, with steel tubes the next step. The project’s goal is to reduce the tower’s tilt by one-half a degree, an angle invisible to the observer but very important in determining whether the tower lives or dies.

Officials at the Pisa Commission which safeguards the tower say the excavation will take around three months, after which test results will be reviewed to determine if the work shod proceed. One commissioner said that if the results are positive, the tower could re-open sometime in 1999. Pisa could be a great spot to ring in the millennium, if things go right…