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March 31, 2005

Pisa planning construction of a second leaning tower

PISA, Italy

The city of Pisa is set to get another leaning tower. More than 600 years after this city’s most famous monument went up, officials here have approved construction of a modern office building about five kilometres southeast of the original, which will simulate a tilt with a trick of lighting.

Construction of the steel building — designed by architect Dante Oscar Benini — is scheduled to begin at the end of the summer and last four years.

It also will house apartments and shops and is expected to cost the equivalent of almost $65 million (U.S.).

Already, some in this Tuscan city are denouncing the project as a scandal.

“Towers of steel and glass 57 metres high serve only to deface the view,’’ said Fabio Roggiolani, a Green Party representative in the regional council.

But the city’s urban planner, Giuseppe Sardu, said the second tower will attract tourists.

The design calls for the tower to be in a plaza that also would include two shorter buildings that recall Pisa’s cathedral and the baptistry, which are next to the original leaning tower.

Benini said the view from the top of his tower will include the older tower that inspired it.

“The two towers will look at each other and historic Pisa and the Pisa of the future will be virtually united,’’ Benini told Corriere.

Architect Bonanno Pisano began construction of the original tower in 1173 to celebrate the glory of Pisa, in those years a wealthy maritime republic.

The soil beneath its foundations began sinking before workers completed the third level, starting its centuries-long famous tilt that prompted Mark Twain to once call the monument “the strangest structure the world has any knowledge of.’’

The builders forged ahead, completing the tower in 1360.

By 1990, the tilt had worsened to such a degree that the tower was closed and an ambitious project to shave off some of the lean was launched.

Over the course of the renovation, engineers reduced the lean by 44 centimetres and guided the monument back to where it was in 1838. The difference is not visible to the naked eye.

It reopened to visitors in December 2001.

The Associated Press

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