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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