Friday, January 14, 2011

Leaning Tower of Pisa: Nothing to do With Pizza

"Leaning Tower of Pisa's Kaleidoscope Effect to Be Restored"
Rossella Lorenzi, Analysis, History News, Discovery News (January 14, 2011)

"The Leaning Tower of Pisa is about to add a new effect to its oddball geometry, according to restorers working on Italy's most iconic monument.

"Restoration work on the seventh tier of the tower, just below the bell chamber at a height of about 164 feet, has returned a unique optical effect which was conceived at the tower's construction.

"At this tier, a series of decorative arches allow sunlight to stream into the tower in intricate patterns, producing a kaleidoscope-like effect on the tower's white marble.

" 'For decades they have remained closed because of several wooden doors. They were installed to prevent pigeons intruding inside,' Gisella Capponi, director of the Institute for Conservation and Restoration at the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, told the daily Corriere della Sera.

"The complete view upwards of the interior was also obstructed by a floor on the first tier. It was built in 1935 to house bulky instruments to monitor the tower's tilt...."

Pisa's famous landmark started tilting while it was being built, around 1200. The tower's belfry was the last part to be finished, in 1360. (BBC) Then, during the 20th century, technology - and a growing concern that one of Pisa's prime attractions would fall over - let the lean be fixed. A little.

The 'leaning tower of Pisa' is a lot cooler than a plain 'tower of Pisa' would be, so a little lean was left.

The tower's restoration got a built-in lighting effect in working order again, too.

"...Basically an empty cylinder covered by a great vault, the tower's interior will boast unique light effects.

"They will be particularly striking at dusk or dawn, when the marble inside the tower turns pink because of the sun's rays filtering through the arcades.

"Much whiter -- the restorers have removed centuries of grime and dust from the tower's marbles -- the tower is also very stable.

"The monument shows no signs of tilting any further, and its condition is now 'excellent,' Francesco Karrer, Italy's public works chief, told the news agency ANSA.

"The tower was saved from tumbling after a decade-long engineering feat in the 1990s.

"The lean was fixed with the simplest and most intuitive solution: by sinking the high side...."

The Lemming suspects that, 'simple' as the fix may have been - it involved a very great deal of care, too. Tilting a tower that size isn't quite like wedging a shim under a chair.


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