Da Vinci’s Bridge: An Architectural Magic Trick


Welcome to the blog! If you are here to have fun and wonder in awe, then you are at the right place. Continue your journey through the post for joy and wonder.

A bridge is a structure that carries a path, road, or railway to avoid other roads or water bodies underneath. Uff! It is such a boring definition! If you understand what a bridge is, let us add some fun to it.

Bridges are engineering marvels that consider so many forces to stand upright for years supporting the enormous weight that crosses over them daily. They usually have many intricate connections and structures to support them, apart from the bricks, cement, etc. This would sound obvious to you. Even to make a popsicle stick stand straight, you must glue it to a surface. 

At this point, could you imagine a huge bridge that stands upright, supporting huge loads of weight but having no external connections at all between the poles/beams? Just the arrangement trick creates magic, the magical Da Vinci’s Bridge.

Are you now wondering how this is possible? Then dive into the post further to understand how it actually works!

The bridge’s arch structure is built in a way that the connections would tighten when there is a load over it. It is called the self-locking mechanism. As you see in the above video, no screws, glue, or external connections are added to strengthen the bridge. But how does the load make the bridge stronger?

Just imagine you are sliding a book underneath a pile of books. You might successfully slide it over. Now imagine a heavy weight placed on the pile; all the force you use to slide out the book would be in vain. The force you apply to the book is called shear force. And the heavyweight is the load. 

This is the principle Da Vinci Bridge works on. The load on the bridge tightens the connections between the poles. The bridge is also known as a self-supporting bridge.

History of the bridge structure

It was in the year 1502 that Leonardo Da Vinci sketched a bridge to send a proposal to Sultan Bayezid II of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). It was proposed for a bridge over the Golden Horn and was expected to be 240m (790 ft) long and 24m (79 ft) wide. The proposal was won by someone other than him. 

Image credits: openculture.com

The sketch and proposal letter were lost for around 400 years and rediscovered in 1952.

Norway’s Da Vinci bridge is loosely based on the sketch Da Vinci created in 1502. In 2019, researchers at MIT successfully prototyped a bridge that would match the description in the sketch with the help of 3D printing.

And Voila, though it initially was a 32-inch long prototype, it had successfully passed all the tests of stress management like earthquakes, loose soils, etc.

Welcome to Param

Looking to experience the Da Vinci Bridge in person? You’re invited to walk and even jump on it at the Science Centre in Bangalore. More information about the center can be found here: https://paraminnovation.org/

Keep your eyes peeled for more science fun coming your way!


  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/da-vincis-unbuilt-super-long-istanbul-bridge-would-have-worked-180973356/#:~:text=Leonardo%20drafted%20his%20proposal%20in,estuary%20called%20the%20Golden%20Horn.
  2. https://www.leonardodavincisinventions.com/civil-engineering-inventions/da-vinci-bridge/
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