In 1501 Leonardo da Vinci designed a bridge to span the Golden Horn inlet between present-day Istanbul and Pera, Turkey. The bridge plan was part of a larger public works project presented to Sultan Bejazet II in 1502.
A true Italian Renaissance man, da Vinci (1452-1519), remains one of the most famous artists, architects, engineers, scientists, naturalists and inventors from his or any other generation. Many of his concepts were hundreds of years ahead of their time, and this bridge is a perfect example of that: Variously known as the “Golden Horn Bridge” or “Queen of Bridges”, da Vinci designed a bridge with the then unprecedented span of 720 feet (240 meters), using pressed-bow construction methods that would not come into common use for another 300 years. Consequently, because the bridge was too advanced for the builders of that time, it could not be constructed.
For centuries, the Golden Horn Bridge seemed destined to remain forever a concept and never a completed project. Then one day, about 500 years later, fate intervened when reknowned Norwegian artist Vebjorn Sand saw a small sketch of the bridge at a museum exhibiting da Vinci’s architectural and engineering ideas.
Sand was the perfect person to resurrect the Golden Horn Bridge project because, besides being a famous painter, he also is acclaimed for his gigantic public art installations. (Examples include the Kepler Star installed near the Oslo airport, and his phenomenally popular 1997-98 winter “Trollslottet” [Troll Castle] outdoor exhibition of paintings from his expeditions to Antarctica; it attracted the largest audience for a contemporary artist’s exhibit in Norwegian history.) www.vebjorn-sand.com
Additionally, Sand is deeply influenced by the traditions of Renaissance and Baroque artists and firmly believes, “We shouldn’t live in the the past, but the Past should live in us. . .there is a real role in contemporary society for a guardian of tradition.” In da Vinci’s bridge, Sand foresaw a public art project with the potential to span the past and present, while also connecting “diverse and distant communities through the construction of one very special bridge.”
For the next few years, Vebjorn Sand devoted his time and effort to transforming the Leonardo Bridge Project from a dream into reality. And in 2001, Queen Sonja of Norway dedicated the first Bridge in As, Norway. A pedestrian footbridge, it was the first civil-engineering project based on a da Vinci design ever to be built. But even as Vebjorn Sand realized that first bridge, his vision for the project was spreading around the world. He envisioned the Leonardo Bridge as a global public art project whereby the da Vinci design re-imagined to suit individual commmnities by using local materials and in collaboration with local artisans would be constructed on every continent on earth.
To date, the Leonardo Bridge Project team has initiated projects in Japan, China, Texas, France and New Zealand. Bridges of ice have even been built in Antarctica and Greenland. And in April, 2011, foundation stones will be laid to construct the Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey — meaning, five centuries after it was designed, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Queen of Bridges” can finally span the Golden Horn inlet and five hundred years of history!