Pisa Lean

This week we saw one of the most iconic buildings in Italy – it graces the covers of pizza boxes everywhere, it is the center of hundreds to thousands of cliche tourist photos daily, it is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. While it is the most popular building in Pisa, stealing the show from the cathedral and baptistry, it is actually the building there least known about. Many of the drawings and records from the tower’s design and construction were never found, leaving an aura of mystery surrounding it. What is known is that it was constructed in three phases. Due to poor soil conditions and an improperly sized foundation the tower began to sink during the first phase. For some reason they decided to go ahead with constructing the other two phases. To account for the lean of the base level they angled the platform and tried to correct the lean as they built upward. Well, the additional weight only added to the structural issues and the tower began to lean even more. It survived through centuries but as the lean became more exaggerated, the fear of collapse grew. In the 20th century the tower was closed and underwent a 20 year restoration feat, which included completely digging up the surrounding soil and replacing it with a much larger concrete platform.

As we climbed the tower on Tuesday we were all a little apprehensive. It almost felt like I had vertigo as I wound up the stairs, sometimes gravity pulled me towards the center, then I’d round the circle and be pulled the opposite direction. From the top the views of Pisa were fantastic, though a little unsettling to see an entire city from a 20 degree angle. It is ironic that a mistake became the defining feature of the city, and an internationally known icon. After our day there many of us were struck with the same question – if the tower didn’t lean would we even have studied it in our architecture courses?

-Beth Koeppel

Marble Mud


This weeks field study was divided into two parts. The first half was to Cararra and the second was to Pisa. Cararra is a town about 45 minutes from Pisa where the purest white and gray marble is harvested. We started at the base of the mountain and were able to go into a studio where a lot of famous pieces are created, gorgeous accent pieces for furniture was sculpted, and where duplicates are made. After our visit we rode the bus up to the marble quarry where we took a tour inside the caves where they get the marble. The marble is cut into minimum weights of 2 tons each and each piece costs about $20,000. Wyatt and I really enjoyed playing in the marble mud the most.

– Hannah Job

Something a little off…


Our field studies trip was super neat mostly because it was so unlike any of our previous trips. In Carrara we got the opportunity to put on our hard hats and explore the mines within the center of a mountain in the Apuane Alps. The rock quarries developed in this area are famous for their white and grey marble, which has been used even in Roman times, making it very some of the most historic and important marble in Italy. Our tour of the inside of the mine was amazing not only because of its location but also because we got to see some of the actual process of the stone cutting and removal. However, one of the most fascinating things was before we even got to the rock quarry. We stopped at a studio where they cut and sculpt the marble. The studio
was filled with all kinds of works and it was just very interesting to see the artists at work.

Pisa was also quite surprising. I truly didn’t think that there was anything surrounding the Tower of Pisa but there was a huge and beautiful religious complex with a cathedral and baptistry. I’m very glad we had the chance to climb to the top of the tower and experience the true extent of the lean and its disorienting discomfort.




This Tuesday we stopped in Carrara on our way to Pisa.  We had the opportunity to explore the marble quarry 600 meters into the mountain.  They only have 5 people working at a time for 8 hours a day because of the pollution from the noise and the machines.  All parts of the marble can be used – even the powder.  To cut the marble, they first cut the base, and then the sides before they push it over on its side onto bags of sand to prevent the marble from breaking.  This was an amazing experience.  Pisa was great too!  The Baptistery, Church, and Tower are all located in the same area, because at the time, Pisa was looking to become the new Rome.  The interior of the Baptistery was less ornamented than I expected based on the exterior, but there was a second level which we were able to access and look down over the space.  The best part of Pisa was of course climbing the Tower.  Because the base has shifted so much, engineers have had to add supports and tie cables to keep it steady.  Climbing to the top was an interesting experience with a rewarding view.

– Ashley Damiano

Sell Rocks, Get Money!

IMG_5073This past Tuesday we went to Carrara and Pisa for our field study. It was one of the coolest field studies that we have gone on in my opinion because we saw something other than architecture for once. we started the day off in Carrara where they mine for and sell their iconic white marble. We first saw lots filled with white marble waiting to be sold and a statues made of the white marble such as the huge cloaked figure sketched above. We then went a little bit higher up the mountain to where they actually get the marble from and proceeded to go into a cave. The cave is sketched above and it was really cool inside. It was really damp because they have to water down the marble and machinery so that it is easier to cut and so that the machinery doesn’t overheat. After we exited the cave we went to Pisa where the saw the Duomo, Baptistry, and of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Baptistry which is sketched above was very cool and interesting on the outside, but left a lot to be desired on the inside. The Duomo had an immaculate golden ceiling, but overall was pretty average in my opinion. The Leaning Tower cool, but going up it made me very dizzy and there where a lot of tourist around the area. Overall it was a very fun day trip.

Tyler McKenzie

Leaning Tower of…Pizza?


As a five-year-old, I was convinced that there was a building made out of pizza in the magical land of Italy.  Sadly this past week on our field studies trip to Carrarra and Pisa, this illusion was shattered.  Even though the tower may not be edible, it’s still pretty cool.  When the architect and builders first realized that the foundation was unstable and the tower was shifting, they built the second section at a reverse tilt in an attempt to pull the tower back straight.  This strategy did not work, and the third level was again built at an angle, which after the restorations over the years is now parallel with the ground, even though the rest of the tower is still decidedly crooked.  While climbing the spiral stairs to the upper levels, you can feel gravity acting on you, pulling you left and right as you circle around the leaning side.  Once at the top, all of Pisa is spread out below, which is a nice view if you can look through the columns that seem to defy gravity and grow crookedly towards the sky.


Why Doesn’t the Leaning Tower of Pisa Fall Over…?

…Because hundreds of tourists hold it up in photos everyday. Actually, its because the base was specially reinforced, but that is beside the point. As you can probably tell we traveled to the city of Pisa and saw the cathedral, the baptistry, the leaning tower, and the aforementioned swarms of photo-posing tourists. Pisa, to my surprise, we even more enjoyable than I imagined it would be. The leaning tower actually stands in a complex surrounded by medieval walls. This complex is also home to the Pisa cathedral and baptistry which are arranged along a central axis and positioned according to site geometries. Much less rational is the positioning of the tower which was seemingly arbitrarily placed in the back corner of the site, slightly behind the cathedral. Romanesque style architecture is consistent throughout the site which is also home to a large, beautiful green space. Probably my favorite experience of the day was actually climbing the leaning tower. As we rounded the spiral staircase, our journey became rhythmically easier and more difficult as we traveled through different parts of the building. The top of the building showcase 360 views of the town of Pisa and its surrounding area. Below, I included a picture of the complex. – Chris


A Really Big Game of Marbles

marble quarry

On Tuesday in field study, we went to Carrara and Pisa.  Pisa was kind of what I expected.  It was a really tourist town that did have great architecture features like the leaning tower, the cathedral, and the baptistery. It was nice spending time there and being able to relax in the grass outside these beautiful structures. However the biggest surprise of the field study was being able to see the marble quarries.  We visited a studio that was creating beautiful sculptures out of huge slabs of marble.  The marble slabs were everywhere.  We then actually went inside the mountain to the quarry that the white marble comes from.  The size and price of each slab of marble was astonishing.  Also the way that they cut out the marble and the amount that they cut in a years time is a truly amazing and impressive amount of work for the worker of the quarry.  It was an unique experience to go inside the caves of the marble quarry and something I will not forget about the trip.


Brandon Green

Corey at the Quarry


For this Field Study we took a trip to Pisa and made a stop at the marble quarry along the way. The marble quarry was amazing! It’s always interesting to think of where the huge slaps of marble come from to create all the incredible sculptures we’ve seen throughout Italy. This quarry specialized in solid white marble and gray marble. We started off in the warehouse where the marble was cut and sculpted. Here we saw several wicked cool sculptures including the one pictured above! My favorite sculpture would have to be of Zidane headbutting Materazzi. Who knew that was ever going to be created into a piece of art. We then moved up to the actual cave where the marble was initially cut from the mountain. Inside was nuts! There were huge marble columns supporting an entire mountain. One thing that was surprising was that, overtime, this process of marble cutting from the mountain had caused the entire climate to change within the area. That’s insane! Regardless, I still enjoyed the marble quarry very much and even snagged a piece of marble for safekeeping…Pisa was a whole other ballgame. I’m sure others will talk about it, but Pisa was a hot mess. Everything was super cool just extremely out of whack! I appreciated it though, Pisa can hang. – Corey Ferg

Big Boy Toys In Carrara

wheel loader

A couple of days ago we took our field studies trip to Carrara and Pisa. This trip is possibly my favorite one we have taken yet. Carrara is famous for its white and blue-grey marble quarries. The marble in the surrounding mountains was so white that it actually resembled snow from afar. After we drove up the mountain side where they we harvesting marble we got to take a tour of a quarry they had dug deep in the mountain. The marble quarry was in the center of the mountain at roughly 400 meters from each side of the mountain. The room they had cut out was huge and it housed large construction equipment like the wheeled loader I sketched this week. We wore hard hats and walked through several rooms, even one where Bon Jovi played a concert. After the tour was over we drove back out of the mountain and made our way to Pisa.

In Pisa we did what any other tourist would do, we went and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa or more simply known as the Tower of Pisa. The tower began to lean during construction due to a soft foundation. The tilt became worse over the decades before the tower was completed. Due to efforts in the 20th and 21st century, the tilt has been stabilized and slightly corrected.