Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Leonardo Project

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Wow... ain't this amazing? Wondering who designed it? Here goes a snippet from The Leonardo Bridge Project.

In 1502 Leonardo da Vinci did a simple drawing of a graceful bridge with a single span of 720-foot span (approximately 240-meters.) Da Vinci designed the bridge as part of a civil engineering project for Sultan Bajazet II of Constantinople (Istanbul.) The bridge was to span the Golden Horn, an inlet at the mouth of the Bosphorus River in what is now Turkey.

The Bridge was never built.

Leonardo's "Golden Horn" Bridge is a perfect "pressed-bow." Leonardo surmised correctly that the classic keystone arch could be stretched narrow and substantially widened without losing integrity by using a flared foothold, or pier, and the terrain to anchor each end of the span. It was conceived 300 years prior to its engineering principals being generally accepted. It was to be 72 feet-wide (24 meters), 1080-foot total length (360 meters) and 120 feet (40 meters) above the sea level at the highest point of the span.

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Da Vinci's sketch of Golden Horn Bridge

Da Vinci had left sketchy instructions in his notebooks for the construction of his design. It has been suggested that he didn't intend for the bridge to be anything more than a visionary sketch. But evidence of a letter written to the Sultan, though not in Leonardo's hand, proves that it was intended as part of a millwork project. Since he hoped the Turkish prince would approve the project, he is unlikely to have presented a project that couldn't be executed.

Leonardo's design consists of a weight-bearing granite vault with a built up walkway that forms a crossing between terrain and vault. Granite is extremely strong under stress and the load force of the pressed-bow design is such that a slender and resilient span can be constructed. The flat bridge shape, which is also seen in the viaduct over the Golden Horn - described in the same terms as those between pier height and arch span - give the bridge elegance and boldness. This impression emphasizes the slim mid-portion of the bridge, which at its narrowest point, measures only 25.5 inches (65 centimeters). Towards the sides and bottom of the arch the construction thickness increases to 15 feet (4.5 meters) and an anchoring footing 42 feet (14 meters) wide flairs out on each end.

Finally, the Leonardo Bridge Project represents a historical connection between Europe and the Middle East, between Christianity and Islam. The Italian Renaissance was inspired by the scholarship of the Ottoman Empire. Leonardo, in turn, was fascinated by the Middle East. This aspect seems particularly relevant since the events of September 11, 2001, as the Leonardo Project expands into the global goodwill project Vebjørn Sand envisioned.

The Norwegian Leonardo Bridge was constructed and opened to foot and bicycle traffic on October 31, 2001. Da Vinci's vision resurrected, 500 years after the drawing was made. Vebjørn Sand is currently considering several sites in the United States for the next Leonardo Bridge Project.

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The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, in Odessa, a component of The University of Texas system, makes plans to construct the second Leonardo Bridge Project in the world. A press conference announcing the project will be held at UTPB 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25.

Italian artist, scientist, and Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci designed a beautiful 720-foot bridge for Sultan Bejazet II one afternoon in 1502 to span the Golden Horn — an inlet of the Bosphorus River in what is present day Istanbul, Turkey. He never dreamed it would take 500 years for his pressed-bow designed bridge to be built. Nor, that its graceful symmetry would result in a global public art project creating a network of bridges, each a living tribute to his life. Inspired by the legacy of curiosity about the natural world left to us by this iconic creator, the Leonardo Bridge Project integrates art, architecture, natural sciences, history and mathematics, to inspire people, regardless of culture, with the awesome creative potential of the human mind.

Celebrated Norwegian artist, Vebjørn Sand, who built the first Leonardo Bridge outside Oslo, Norway, and guides the global Project, will attend the Texas news conference. A two-foot model of the bridge will be on display as part of the presentation for the media. His artistic imagination was captivated by the utter simplicity and eloquence of the design, inspiring his re-imagining of it as a place where “all pairs of opposites meet.” The Norwegian Transportation Ministry constructed the first bridge in 2001.

UT Permian Basin received a grant for construction of the Project. It is another public installation on the campus that graphically demonstrates the University’s commitment to the arts and sciences, and a tribute to Texans’ penchant to “think big.” In 2004, the University constructed a life-size Stonehenge replica (exact width and stone placement with 70 percent of the vertical height of the stones reaching 18 feet and weighing 20,000 to 40,000 pound each) to demonstrate how accurately ancient astronomers constructed methods of tracking the sun, stars and planets.

Leonardo envisioned his bridge constructed of stone as he indicated in a letter outlining his plans to the Turkish Sultan. The UTPB Project will be constructed in Texas limestone from Garden City, stone that is naturally embedded with a fossilized record of the Permian Basin.

The Leonardo Bridge Project melds art, through its symmetry and poetic power; and science, through its innovative engineering and mathematical principles. Seattle architect, David Hewitt, in discussing the Leonardo Bridge Project commented, “I consider myself a modernist and resist copying anything from the past. But this bridge intrigues me because it is like a brilliant passage of music, fresh with every new interpretation.”

Vebjørn Sand notes, “The traditions of the Renaissance may have lost their influence in recent years in American culture. However, we forget the story of European history at our peril. The great mathematicians of Arabic civilizations contributed immeasurably to the success of the Italian Renaissance, clarifying Greek discoveries forgotten while northern Europe slept through the Dark Ages. Individuals create and recreate civilization on our planet. Remaining curious about eternal truth, beauty and meaning, as Leonardo showed us, is a way for it to flourish.”

The Leonardo Bridge Project has caught the imagination of the world media, inspiring articles in Wired Magazine, Time Magazine and the New York Times. It has been included in middle school textbooks on mathematics and design. It has also been adopted as a pet project of UNESCO’s “Bridge Schools for Peace.”