Vebjørn Sand's Leonardo Bridge Project
For five hundred years, the beauty and symbolism of Leonardo da Vinci’s graceful bridge intended to span the Golden Horn inlet in Istanbul, (then Constantinople) Turkey remained an obscure, tiny drawing in a corner of one of Leonardo’s voluminous notebooks, until 1996 when contemporary Norwegian artist, Vebjørn Sand, saw the drawing at an exhibition of Leonardo’s engineering designs. He was smitten by the grace and mathematical eloquence of the structure. Upon returning to Oslo, he proposed that the Norwegian Public Roads undertake the construction of the project.
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration has an enlightened “art in public places” policy which considers the aesthetics of structures as ordinary as traffic roundabouts and bridges. When Vebjørn Sand suggested the Leonardo Bridge Project, officials immediately grasped the artistic and historical significance of the Project. Even so the Project took more than six years to complete. A timber version of the design spanning E-18 outside Oslo opened in October of 2001. (www.vegvesen.no)
Leonardo’s original design called for the bridge to be constructed in stone. The first formal analysis of the design was conducted by Stein Atle Haugerud, with the structural engineering firm Dr. techn Olav Olsen AS (www.olavolsen.no) and the architectural firm, Tejle, Torp Aasen Architects (www.ttaa.no).
The stone version of the design was developed concurrently with a timber version. Norway builds many bridges from timber and the Norwegians have a special relationship with design in wood. Vebjørn Sand also felt the geometry of the design could be expressed most simply in timber, where the pressed-bow, the parabolic curves and the key stone arch principles would be easily visible. Vebjørn Sand designed the timber structure with the help of Selberg Architects ( www.selberg.no )
In 1994, Moelven Laminated Group had built the largest wooden roof structure in the world for the Lillehammar Olympic Skating Rink. This technology was brought into the Leonardo Bridge Project. Glue lam was used to create strong, light, perfectly calibrated structural components, expressing the foundational geometry of the design in a beautiful Norwegian spruce. (www.moelven.com ) Engineering for the timber bridge was provided by Reinhert Structural Engineers. (www.reinertsen.com)