Da Vinci’s bridge design is decoded by CCNY professor Mohammad Bolhassani

For centuries experts have pondered over one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most intriguing and yet unconsummated projects: the Galata bridge whose double-curvature arch design, ca. 1502-1503, was so futuristic it was rejected as risky. 

Enter Mohammad Bolhassani, assistant professor and masonry structures specialist in The City College of New York’s Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture

While MIT researchers have proven the structural feasibility of the design, Bolhassani and his team attempt -- more than 500 years later -- to deconstruct the great inventor and artist’s mind in designing what, at 240 meters (790 ft), would have been the world’s longest bridge then. Their research yields unique findings. 

Did the Renaissance polymath have uncanny knowledge of creating stable and efficient forms, knowledge only recently developed using a computational framework based on the principle of geometrical equilibrium in 3D?  Was his sketch of the bridge just free hand, something he had done in seconds, or did Da Vinci possess an intuition more than five centuries ahead of his time?

“Although most historians believe he had no mathematical or geometrical calculation in his design, our study proves otherwise!” said Bolhassani. “Through rigorous analysis of Da Vinci's design, we have found that he had intuitively drawn his sketch according to the principles of geometric design that was developed in 2D almost 400 years after his time and just recently in a 3-dimensional manner with the help of computational frameworks.”

Da Vinci’s double-curvature arch design was a radical departure from the semi-circular arches that were conventional for bridges then. He described his planned bridge as being as tall as a building so that it would have allowed ships to sail underneath it without obstruction.

Commissioned by an Ottoman Sultan, the bridge would have connected Istanbul to the neighboring city of Galata. The Ottoman Emperor ultimately rejected Da Vinci's design, calling it a “risky endeavor.”

Click here to read Bolhassani’s research.

About the City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

Jay Mwamba
p: 212.650.7580
e: jmwamba@ccny.cuny.edu