The Leaning Tower of San Francisco Isn’t Supposed to Be That Way

You don’t necessarily have to live in San Francisco to have heard of the Millennium Tower. Since last year, news reports have been steadily coming out that the 58-story luxury tower is leaning — and it most definitely wasn’t designed to do that. The building has had its headaches since it opened in 2009, and those headaches are only getting worse as the tower continues to lean.

By Victorgrigas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
How bad has it gotten? Well, this week the Millennium Tower got the 60 Minutes treatment, so that’s never a good sign. The investigative report showed enormous cracks in the basement of the building, and handed out some staggering numbers — the building has already sunk 17 inches into the ground since workers broke ground in 2005, and the building is currently leaning 14 inches to the side. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s enough to make things a little tilted near the top of that 58-story building.

Early buyers of the luxury condo units, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and current San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, are not particularly happy. Some have even sold their units while losing millions, content to write the Millennium Tower off as a lost cause. Well, maybe content isn’t the right word — the lawsuits are many.

The news got us thinking about other leaning towers in the world — accidental or otherwise. Some of them are cool enough to make us start looking up plane tickets!

Here’s one you might recognize…

By Saffron Blaze (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is pretty much the last word on leaning towers, but its story is the same as most others, including the Millennium Tower — it was built on bad foundations! Researchers think the land beneath the Leaning Tower of Pisa was made softer by underground water from the nearby river. There is one unique quirk about this one, though — the tower took so long to build (200 years), that builders realized what was happening and tried to build the rest of the tower straighter to compensate. It…didn’t work, but at least we got an awesome tourist attraction out of it!

The West doesn’t have a monopoly on this stuff…

By www.seefarseeeast.com (Flickr: Tiger Hill Pagoda) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Huqiu Tower, also known as the Tiger Hill Pagoda, is in Suzhou City in China, this one is leaning by three degrees, making it one of most dramatic tilts in the world of leaning towers. But, at least this one has a better excuse — not only are the foundations probably not the best, the tower has been standing since the 900s! If your leaning tower is still standing after 1,000 years, that’s a win in my book.

Off to the Netherlands…

By User ja_macd at flickr.com (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmacphotos/44916358/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Blame Oede Kerk on bad planning and a nearby canal. This is another pretty old entry to this list, with the leaning tower part of the church going up in the 1300s. It’s said that the tower started leaning almost immediately after it was finished, so once again, we have to marvel that the tower is still standing today!

Germany has its leaning tower, too!

By Axel Heymann [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
This building in Suurhusen leans even more than its more famous cousin in Pisa. Wet, marshy soil underneath this tower’s foundations has made it one of the most dramatically leaning towers in the world — enough to where it had to be closed in 1975. It’s back open now since repairs have been done, and we’re guessing that might not end up being the last time that needs to happen.

Sometimes they do it on purpose!

By FouPic (Площадь Европы) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
You know how they made Snakes on a Plane to be an intentionally unintentional comedy? Here’s the leaning tower version of that. The Plaze de Castilla in Madrid, Spain is one of few buildings in the world that were built to lean for aesthetic reasons. Because it was done on purpose, the lean was made to be as ridiculous as possible — and 15 degrees is pretty ridiculous!

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