Leonardo Da Vinci remains to be known as the greatest geniuses of the 15th Century. With immense knowledge of science, math, art and so many other disciplines, he is recognized as the Renaissance man. His world-famous paintings Mona Lisa and the Last supper are still admired and inspired by many.

If Leonardo da Vinci designed in the 21st century - Sheet1
Studies of Architecture ©parkstone.international

Vinci’s indisputable talent of inventing and discovering, incredible knowledge about polymath, superlative studies about anatomical drawings depicts that he was a thinker ahead of his time. He combined the imagination and understanding of the principles of science and engineering to form new creations for a wide range of devices. They include diving suits, gearboxes, bearings, springs, and many types of weapons of war. Even though his inventions proved to be useful and appealing to his patrons, they were not practical during that time.

If Leonardo da Vinci designed in the 21st century - Sheet2
City on several levels ©www.leonardo-da-vinci.net

Taking into account his knowledge and artistic ability, he also tried his luck in architecture. More than the aesthetics, Vinci emphasized the problems of functionality which was the ultimate cause of design and structural failures. Leonardo da Vinci also decoded the acoustics of church buildings and tried to discover an architectural solution to transform lecture halls in the form of the amphitheater to enable the preacher’s voice to reach the most distant corner of the room. Attempting to redesign the spatial programming of churches in a concentric plan, where aisles and chapels would be grouped as close as possible around a central cupola forming the core of the structure thus resulting in a perfect equilibrium attached to the central body of the church. Hence, he was found keeping thousands of notes in his journals and jotting down random observations from anything that fascinated him in everyday life. He perceived from the weirdest inspiration like the tongue of the woodpecker, birds flight, or even curiosity about various animal dissections. Through surveys from his paintings and sketches suggest that he always tried to bring the mutation of life forms into architecture and mechanical products. There has been a representation of fictive built forms in his creations.

One does not need a book to identify him as a multi-passionate individual, with interest in so many different fields from science to nature to art. It is obvious that Leonardo would be considered a genius if he designed in the 21st Century as he would be a multi-specialist. In today’s era, with over so many emerging disciplines of specialties that take years to master, one would have been a workaholic to master all these skills. Unlike Vinci who was born with such spectacular intellect. Although we can take some solace in understanding that a brilliant man like da Vinci might have been overlooked in this informative and competitive world.

If Leonardo da Vinci designed in the 21st century - Sheet3
Ideal city imagined by Da Vinci ©www.faena.com

Since most of his designs were never built or tested although attempts were made to implement and recreate them in this modern era so as to make use of technology effectively. Leonardo used mathematics as a principle in designing art – parallel lines and vanishing points creating an illusion of depth in the surface, use of golden ratio appearing in different patterns of nature. He also described water as a vehicle of nature, understanding the fluid dynamics of the stream cascading over rocks in his landscape drawing and drawing conclusions about modern water engineering describing hydrological cycle were some of the remarkable fascinations which often played between the disagreement of ayes and the brain centuries before even scientists could understand mechanisms. A man of science always taking a logical approach in solving practical problems drew paintings and sketches depicting the architectural character of the structure. He drew designs for buildings, bridges and even cities to the micro details out of the ordinary elements like a four-way staircase and spiral staircase. Leonardo addressed issues of city planning with a new approach against the traditional walled city where everything was enclosed between the city walls. Problems of sewage and waste build-up, diseases spreading quickly, or to the extent of vandalism were also a part of observations that he wanted to solve in his new ideas of city design. He designed an ideal city that could solve health and transport difficulties. His urban work consisted of a city organization based on logic and functionality where features such as verticality, cleanliness and sanitation, and emphasizing separating the commercial – public pedestrian spaces by increasing the width of streets for good lighting and appropriate ventilation. He designed residential buildings where openings allowed enough amount of sunlight. Width of streets kept according to the adjacent structure to minimize the damage of earthquakes and obtain maximum sunlight. Rightly known as the renaissance man, if Leonardo designed in the 21stCentury, architecture principles of design would be given more importance than the overly decorated ornamented structures. Contemporary architecture is an example of the same shifts our focus to a functional approach, clean geometric lines, and freedom in the form of expression in art and design.  Da Vinci is one such pioneer of modern architecture where his true innovation can be seen where he tried to fuse architecture and engineering. He conceptualized making hydraulic waterways which could carry boats to transport goods. Even though none of his ideas were built, the theory behind modern planning skills changed the perception and rational thinking over the typical city. It defined a change in the way of living and showed us the way to modernism. Being minimalistic and adapting to the rhythm of nature were important key lessons renaissance architects taught us. Contributions made by Leonardo da Vinci shall be cherished for a lifetime.


Tanya is pursuing her B.Arch from VIT’s PVP College of Architecture, Pune. She believes in a holistic approach towards design and living with nature. Through her bachelor’s study, she has developed an interest in travelling and exploring this profession. Apart from architecture, dance and music are an integral part which has made herself know better.

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