10 Notable Leaning Towers Around the World

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Sometimes, the folly of a construction project can turn out to be its greatest asset. For example, take away the “lean” in the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and you have a rather non-nondescript, medieval tower. And while everyone has heard of that leaning tower, there are actually many other canted structures worldwide, some with a more pronounced lean than the famous Italian bell tower. Some began their lean soon after completion, while others only began to tilt centuries later. In recent years, architects have even been pushing the boundaries of architecture — and gravity — to design buildings with a steep incline. Here are 10 notable leaning towers worldwide beyond the one that made accidental architecture famous.

 

10. AC Hotel Bella Sky

The two towers of the AC Bella Sky Hotel in Copenhagen lean at 15 degrees opposite to each other. © Marriott.com

Located in Copenhagen, Denmark, the AC Hotel Bella Sky is the largest hotel in Scandinavia. Consisting of two huge towers connected with a walkway between them, each tower was built with a 15-degree angle opposite each other. If you’re one of the many travelers who obsessively collect Marriott Rewards Points, Hotel Bella Sky is a Marriott property.

 

9. Two Towers of Bologna

The Two Towers of Bologna served as the architectural inspiration for the World Trade Center. © Costas Tavernarakis

Here’s a surprising fact: The tallest leaning tower in Italy is not in Pisa, but in Bologna. The Two Towers of Bologna were built early in the 12th century during an explosion of tower building in the Italian city. The taller Asinelli Tower is almost 320 feet high, while the shorter Garisenda Tower rises more than 150 feet. Asinelli Tower has a tilt of 1.37 degrees — less than the Leaning Tower of Pisa — while Garisenda Tower leans at a precipitous 3.8 degrees and is thus closed to visitors. Architect Minoru Yamasaki used these two towers as inspiration for his work on the World Trade Center in the 1960s.

 

8. Bad Frankenhausen Oberkirche Tower

Oberkirche in Germany has been leaning for centuries. © Hobbyelektroniker

Located in the town of Bad Frankenhausen, Germany, the Oberkirche (Upper Church) Tower was built in 1382 and now has a noticeable lean in its spire of 4.8 degrees. The tilt is caused by sinkholes resulting from nearby salt mines, and was already noticeable in the 17th century.

 

7. Veer Towers

Veer Towers opened in 2010 in Las Vegas. © Phil Guest

The 480-foot-high Veer Towers opened in 2010 on the Las Vegas Strip. Each 37-story tower leans 5 degrees off-center. Veer Towers includes lounges, gymnasiums, rooftop swimming pools, sundecks, and 335 luxury condominiums with views of the Las Vegas skyline. Want an address on the Strip? Well, rent is fairly affordable — considering the location — starting at around $1,500 per month.

 

6. Leaning Tower of Suurhusen

Bad decision: Building the Leaning Tower of Suurhusen on marshy land caused it to lean. © Axel Heymann

Located in Suurhusen in northwestern Germany, the 14th century Tower of Suurhusen is tilted at an angle of 5.19 degrees — 1.20 degrees more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Draining of the marshland around the tower in the 19th century has caused the tower to subside.

 

5. Montreal Tower

The Montreal Tower is the world’s tallest inclined tower, at 541 feet. © Simon Filiatreault

Since it is incorporated into Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, some people overlook this as a tower. But Guinness lists the Montreal Tower as the world’s tallest tower, at 541 feet. It’s a popular tourist destination in Montreal, as visitors can ride to the top in a glass-enclosed car for a spectacular view of the city and St. Lawrence River valley. The extreme 45-degree angle is made possible in part by mass ratio; the 145,000-ton base is almost 20 times heavier than the top of the tower.

 

4. Huzhu Pagoda

The Huzhu Pagoda in Shanghai has an extreme lean of 7.10 degrees. © Narjuko

Built in 1079 near Shanghai, the Huzhu Pagoda originally stood as part of a larger complex; fire later damaged the surrounding buildings, leaving only the octahedral tower standing. Around 65 feet tall, the tower has reached a lean of 7.10 degrees. The tilt is thought to be due to a foundation built on two separate subsiding surfaces.

 

3. Millennium Tower

The new Millennium Tower in San Francisco is sinking, and many residents are worried. © Michael TG

A true modern-day “Leaning Tower,” this 58-story luxury residential tower in San Francisco is sinking. Completed in 2009, the trouble first appeared in early 2016, when a structural inspection showed that the building had a 2-inch tilt at the base toward the northwest; it has sunk 16 inches, and many residents are worried — not just about their safety, but because their investment might be sinking as well. How did this happen? Builders set the foundation by driving piles 60 to 90 feet into muddy landfill, far short of the 200-foot-plus depth needed to reach the bedrock below San Francisco. Yet it’s a common design technique and the structure was built to code. The tower’s builders blame the excavation for an adjacent city rail terminal for weakening the soil under the building. Ironically, although the lawsuits are now flying, the building has also won several awards for innovative construction.

 

2. Capital Gate

The Capital Gate tower in Abu Dhabi leans a precipitous 18 degrees. © FritzDaCat/Wikipedia

Resembling a funnel cloud along the city skyline, Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi opened in 2010. The 35-story Capital Gate was designed with an extreme 18-degree lean, which earned it certification from Guinness as the “World’s Farthest-Leaning Human Built Tower.” The structure’s incline is countered using an off-centered core of concrete reinforced with steel, anchored by 490 piles driven up to 100 feet into the ground.

 

1. Gate of Europe Towers

The Gate of Europe Towers were the first inclined skyscrapers in the world. © Reinhard Link

These two office buildings in Madrid opened in 1996 as the first inclined skyscrapers in the world. Why build them with such an extreme incline? American architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee actually designed them to lean out of necessity, to gain additional setback from a subway interchange. The 375-foot towers have an incline of 15 degrees. An enormous 60x10x10 meter concrete counterweight on each building is connected to the top by cables and counteracts the force of gravity. A reinforced central core also helps keep the buildings stable.

 

One More: Leaning Tower of Nevyansk

According to legend, the Leaning Tower of Nevyansk’s architect was hurled to his death from the top of the tower. © Hardscarf

According to legend, the Leaning Tower of Nevyansk’s architect was hurled to his death from the top of the tower. © Hardscarf

Located in the town of Nevyansk, Russia, this famous tower has long been the center of local myth and legend. Built around 1732 by Akinfiy Demidov for Peter the Great, some say the slight incline nods toward Demidov’s hometown. Another legend says the building is “crying” (water often runs down its side) after a murderous defenestration carried out by Demidov himself from the top of the tower. More than likely, the tower started to sink after the construction of the base, and the builders sought to stabilize it during later stages of construction.

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Written by

David Dickinson is a backyard astronomer, science educator and retired military veteran. He lives in Hudson, Fla., with his wife, Myscha, and their dog, Maggie. He blogs about astronomy, science and science fiction at www.astroguyz.com.