The ‘foundation’ is the structure at the base of another structure that takes the weight of everything above it and distributes it across the ground upon which the structure is built. Often the type of soil and the environment will dictate what type of foundation is required. For loose soils or wet regions, a deeper foundation is needed to be able to hold a building in place. Where the soil is firm and dry, the foundation can be much shallower.
If the foundation isn’t up to handling the stresses that get placed on the structure built upon it, it will fail causing the structure built upon it to fail as well. For example, if a home’s foundation isn’t solid, it will move, causing the house built on top of it to move as well. If a bridge’s foundation isn’t deep enough to keep it from sinking, the bridge built upon it will sink.
The bell tower was built on soil that was softer on one side than on the other so over time it sunk on the soft side causing the whole building to lean. Back in 1983, you could not climb the tower and experience the lilt. Although I haven’t been back recently, I understand from various on-line reports that this is now possible. It must be quite the feeling to experience a 14 foot tilt!
Closer to home, I am sure you have walked on a floor that you can feel is not level, or you’ve seen large cracks that occur in plaster walls, or windows that will no longer open because the wall has gone out of square. All of these are the result of ‘foundation’ issues.
Although my clients hire me to create beautiful spaces for them, the engineer in me is always looking out for the structural elements. When I design a kitchen, I want it to be called ‘Tuscan’ because of the design and the choice of materials, not because it behaves like the famous tower in Tuscany! 🙂