Da Vinci’s Ice Bridge Under Construction

In 1502, Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketched a bridge that he hoped would span the Bosphorous in Istanbul, connecting Europe and Asia. If built, it would have been the largest bridge of its day. Currently, a research team lead by students from Eindhoven University of Technology in Juuka, Finland is building a paper reinforced ice bridge using Da Vinci’s unrealised bridge as a blueprint.

The students plan to have the ice bridge completed on February 13th 2016. When completed, it will be the largest ice bridge ever constructed in the world, measuring 65 meters long and 5 meters wide, with a free span of 35 meters. And like Da Vinci’s original, the only load on the structure is in compression..

The bridge itself is made of a mixture consisting of water and 2% water fibre. The mixture is then sprayed in thin layers onto inflated balloon structures, which act as a mould. In the cold Finnish winter, with temperatures regularly dipping below -30C, the paper fibre and water mixture freezes instantly, taking on a strength that is 3 times that of regular ice. Pedestrians will be able to access the bridge. A car will also be driven over to test the structure’s strength. When the bridge melts in the spring, the paper fibre will be composted.

This is not the first ice achievement for the team. In 2014, they built a large ice dune spanning over 30 meters in a period of three weeks. This project will however take twice as long as it requires about twice as much ice as this previous project – 900 tonnes in total. It will be a feature element at the upcoming Juuka Ice Festival.

A total of around 150 student and volunteers are expected to be making the trip to Juuka to build the bridge between now and its expected completed on February 13th. Participants are coming not just from the Netherlands, but also Belgium, England Scotland, Portugal, Switzerland and Finland. The project leader is Arno Pronk, researcher at TU/e, who will be assisted by co-leader Master students Roel Koekkoek and Thijs van de Nieuwenhof. In addition to the students and staff of TU/e, ten educational institutions are cooperating, including the Belgian University of Gent and KU Leuven as well as Aalto University (Helsinki). Forty-five companies are also participating in the project.

More information can be found on the project website: and on their Facebook page.  Building work can be followed via livecams, their YouTube channel and updated pictures are published on the website.

We look forward to seeing the result on February 13th!

Photos credits: Flickr