Leonardo da Vinci: Architect Extraordinaire

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Karly Bast with her scale model of Leonardo da Vinci's bridge design (Gretchen Ertl)

Scientists Prove Leonardo da Vinci’s 500-Year-Old Bridge Design Actually Works

by Jason Daley /Smithsonian.com

Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t known for getting things done. He was often years or even decades late when delivering paintings, and many of the fantastical schemes he concocted (think giant horse statues and flying machines) barely progressed beyond the page.

Still, new research conducted by engineers at MIT suggests one of the Renaissance giant’s unbuilt designs—a bridge poised to be the world’s longest—would have worked if the artist had actually followed through on his plans.



Leonardo drafted his proposal in response to Sultan Bayezid II’s 1502 appeal for bridge designs. Bayezid, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, wanted to connect the cities of Constantinople and Galata, which were separated by a river estuary called the Golden Horn.

As Jennifer Ouellette reports for Ars Technica, the main obstacle raised by Leonardo’s design was the bridge’s proposed length: At 919 feet, it would have been around 10 times longer than most contemporary bridges. If workers tasked with bringing the artist’s vision to life used conventional building techniques, they would have needed at least ten piers to bolster the structure’s weight. These piers, in turn, would have prevented ships from passing underneath the bridge.

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