Case Study Leonardo Bridge Project

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When Leonardo da Vinci designed a 240 meters bridge it would have been the longest bridge in

the world. His plan was ambitious. In 1502, a skeptical sultan rejected Leonardo's design as

impossible, but 300 years civilization finally embraced the engineering principle - arches as

supports - underlying the construction. The bridge has been constructed, in Norway.

Now instead of spanning the Bosporus , his visionary creation was destined to span 500 years as

a bridge to another millennium. Vebjorn Sand, the man behind the modern project, has a site

with images and details.

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.

Norwegian painter and public art creator, Vebjørn Sand, saw the drawing and a model of the

bridge in an exhibition on da Vinci's architectural & engineering designs in 1996. The power of the

simple design overwhelmed him. He conceived of a project to bring its eternal beauty to life. The

Norwegian Leonardo Bridge Project makes history as the first of Leonardo's civil engineering

designs to be constructed for public use.

Vebjørn Sand took the project to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. Though hardly a

visionary organization, when Sand presented the project the reaction was unanimous. "Everyone

on the project knew we would be making something more than another boring bridge," Sand

says of his meetings with government officials, "We would be making history."

On the Project, Vebjørn Sand successfully collaborated with a professional team of engineers and

architects to test the build-ability of the design. Numerous sites were considered all over Norway

until the right one was found in the township of Ås spanning E-18, the highway linking Oslo and

Stockholm. Fundraising for the project also became a major responsibility for Sand. The next five

years required the ability to sustain the vision while building coalitions to undertake the

construction of what the Norwegian press would call "Vebjørn Sand's Leonardo Project."

The Norwegian Leonardo Bridge Project did not easily fall into place. Vebjørn Sand's celebrity in

Norway rests on his reputation as a young painter of considerable ability who gleefully joined the

public debate over the issue of the dominant Modernist orthodoxy. Sand supports rigorous

technical mastery required of classical art training. The Norwegian art academies no longer taught

those skills. As the Leonardo Bridge Project developed, this debate continued to grow more

heated in the Norwegian press. Sand's conceptual tribute to the Renaissance thinkers, and

Leonardo's vision, came under scathing criticism. Some said the bridge belonged in Disneyland;

others accused Vebjørn Sand of being a fascist.

Conceptually, Vebjørn Sand sees the project as a vivid meeting between the functional and

esthetical worlds. It is a reminder that the technology the human race has come to consider a

necessary part of daily life, was...
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