Term Paper: Leonardo Da Vinci the Architect and His Machine Inventions

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¶ … da Vinci's architectural and engineering designs, including his flying, water, and war machines, and his architectural designs such as the Galata Bridge. Leonardo is known as the true "Renaissance Man," because his life embodied the Renaissance thoughts of education, the arts, and innovation. An inventor, artist, writer, and engineer, Leonardo's interests led him to create a vast array of inventions and ideas that are still being studied and completed today. His inventions indicate he was a man with a mind far ahead of his time who could envision innovations that are the basis of many of our modern technological advances.

One of Leonardo's lesser-known skills (at least to some) was his skill in architecture. He envisioned an "ideal city" based on an idea of urban planning and design that was unknown at the time. He envisioned a geometric city surrounded by a series of canals. The canals would serve as transportation as well as a sewage system, unheard of at the time. He also envisioned wide roads, as wide as the buildings were tall, to ensure the streets never became narrow and clogged with traffic. There would be three different levels of roadways, each serving a different purpose. Two Leonardo experts note, "Leonardo notes that carriages and other means of transport will travel only on the low level, gentlemen only on the upper level and 'foetid things' only on the underground level."

The canals would contain locks that would help boats navigate the canals, and would lead out to sea, encouraging trade. The boats could also be lowered via the locks, allowing them to travel underneath the buildings of the ideal city. Leonardo wanted this ideal city to be unified and geometric in scale, making it more pleasing to the eye as well as functional, and most of all, cleaner and more sanitary than cities in Europe were at the time. His ideas never developed an ideal city, but they remain a model of urban planning even today.

Leonardo seemed to have a fascination with bridges, and his engineering ideas include many different styles of bridges. He envisioned an arched bridge that would support its own weight, a double-decker bridge that is surprisingly like many bridges in use in cities today, and military bridges that could be assembled and disassembled very quickly and used to cross or float on bodies of water. One of his most famous inventions that was finally constructed in 2001 is the Galata Bridge, originally intended for Istanbul, Turkey. A team of engineers recreated Leonardo's design in 2001.

In 1502, Leonardo was asked by the Sultan of Turkey to submit a plan for a bridge spanning the Golden Horn from Galata to Istanbul. Leonardo created a massive, single span structure that used several different design techniques, including graceful keystone arches and well-known geometric philosophies, including the pressed-bow and parabolic curve. The Sultan was not convinced the bridge could stand, and the project was never completed. However, researchers found Leonardo's drawing of the bridge in 1952, and in 1996, Vebjorn Sand, a Norwegian artist, "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." group came together to repurpose the bridge for construction as a footbridge near Oslo, Norway. It was constructed in 2001, and the group, the Leonardo Bridge Project, is attempting to construct similar bridges around the world. Leonardo's design is elegant, modern, and extremely efficient even today. The Oslo version is built out of timber, but Leonardo's original design was from stone, and engineers are working on developing a stone model, as well.

Leonardo is also known for his many different machine inventions, which spanned many different areas. He was intensely interested in war machines and mechanisms for repelling invaders and keeping cities safe from harm. One invention that many believe is the precursor of the modern tank is the armoured car. The car, which was covered in a cone-like structure with a turret for sighting on the top, had two cranks inside to turn wheels that would propel the car. In addition, "Leonardo's armoured car contained many light cannons. These were arranged on a circular platform which was based on four wheels and provided a firing range of 360 degrees."

The care was never built, but several of the ideas have evolved into modern war vehicles such as tanks and other armored vehicles.

He also developed numerous different designs for crossbows, slingshots, and catapults, all to be used against attacking enemies, and many were quite innovative for their time. For example, "His quick-load catapult only had a short firing range, but this mattered little as guns then were slow loading and heavy. The catapult could be loaded quickly and, if necessary, left loaded in case of surprise attack."

He also designed a giant crossbow mounted on six wheels that would fire simply by striking a pin, as it was operated by a series of gears. He developed ideas for rapid-fire cannons, horse-drawn scythed chariots, and many other items, such as fortresses and ways to repel invaders from climbing city walls.

Some of Leonardo's most popular and well-known inventions include his many ideas for manned flight. He was convinced that man could fly at a time when the principles of aeronautics were unknown, and he studied wing design, the movements of birds, and later, he incorporated rudders and an elevator, innovations that ultimately made it possible for man to fly. Writer Annabell notes, "In 1487 he made drawings of a craft in which the pilot lay prone on a frame, his feet in stirrups. The motion of moving the feet together caused a downstroke from the wings. The upstroke was operated by a hand lever on the right front."

He later developed models that included crude screw-like blades in what is thought to be the first glimmer of an idea of the helicopter. It is said that Igor Sikorsky, the inventor of the modern helicopter, looked at Leonardo's designs and was inspired to try his hand at engineering a helicopter.

Leonardo soon gave up his idea of flapping wings and began to develop fixed-wing flying machines powered by a series of gears and pulleys, and which would have been nearly impossible for one man to fly. However, he studied aircraft design throughout his life, and by the end of his life, he had designed a fixed-wing glider that was remarkably similar to the glider the Wright Brothers designed and flew in 1903. It is notable that to continue his studies, Leonardo invented the first barometer and anemometer to help him calculate wind speed and air pressure, necessary knowledge in the study of flight.

Leonardo also developed methods of folding wings when they were not being used, (just like a bird folds its wings when it is not in flight), and even the first recorded method of retracting the undercarriage of a plane. Some of his designs seem outlandish today, but he studied flight long before anyone thought it was possible, and he never stopped looking for ways to improve his flying machine designs.

Leonardo envisioned many different ways to navigate bodies of water, as well. He created an armored boat, and was the first to conceive and design a double hull for ships, which is used in giant oil tankers today. He also invented many different types of machinery to be used in oceans and rivers, such as dredges and water pumps. He even invented diving gear and a diving suit for diving underwater. Another writer notes, "Other marvels include a revolving bridge, floats for walking on water, a visionary deep-sea diving suit, and the model of an ideal city. Would these 'machines' actually have worked? More often than not, they wouldn't have." That is important to note. Many of Leonardo's designs were not perfect, but they were innovative and unique, and many could still have a chance of being altered and built today.

One of his watercraft designs was a paddleboat, powered by the user by a series of cranks and a treadle. One thing that limited Leonardo was the lack of power systems like we have today. He had to rely on water, wind, or manpower for his machines, and this severely limited what he could do and envision in his designs. With watercraft, he overcame this by using wind power, or propelling the craft through the water with paddles, like the paddleboat. He could conceive of many different ways to manipulate and improve existing technologies, but he could not conceive of engines and other power sources such as we enjoy today, and that is about the only thing that does not appear in his innovative designs.

In conclusion, Leonardo's designs were innovative, forward-looking, and clearly ahead of his time. He created buildings, bridges, weapons of war, flying machines, and watercraft. Many of these designs were never built, but they live… [END OF PREVIEW]

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