Leonardo da Vinci

It is impossible to discuss a history of architectural sketches without an example from Leonardo da Vinci, whose numerous sketchbooks reveal the genius of an architect, painter, sculptor, and inventor.
Although he built or finished very little architectural work, he proposed designs for domed, centrally planned churches, fortifications, numerous mechanical inventions, and buildings in various scales from chapels to palaces to cities. At an early age he started in the workshop of painter Andrea del Verrochio. Throughout his career, Leonardo worked as a military engineer in Milan, in his own studio in Florence, and later in his life, on projects for King Louis XII in France. It was in Amboise, France, where he died in 1519. His works that remain include extensive sketchbooks, some sculpture, and paintings such as the Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks and the fresco The Last Supper in San Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

A consummate observer, Leonardo took an empirical approach to satisfy his curiosity about the nature of the world, giving him the ability of ‘sight and insight’ ( Janson, 1970). He felt that experience is acquired by the senses and, subsequently, that seeing involved an active process. Feeling a need to represent nature as he viewed it, his approach was opposed to that of universal beauty as discussed by Alberti. He viewed vision as the source of scientific truth (Barasch, 1999).
In 1487 Leonardo produced a model for the design of the dome of the Milan Cathedral. This page from his ketchbook, Codex Atlanticus (Figure 1.2), presents some of the design process for the tiburio of this cathedral. It shows the stacking of bricks or blocks to structure the light arches and buttresses. Typical of Leonardo’s sketches, it is possible to view details of construction and connection, as the blocks are rendered with interlocking notches. As a design study, the sketch also displays
rough beginnings and alterations, showing a centerline and horizontals to guide proportions. Only half of the construction has been detailed; Leonardo understood enough to move on to another drawing or a model. Perhaps he rejected how the proposal was progressing, or the sketch had simply served its purpose and  ould be set aside.
This page has numerous identical stippling marks as the  recto. These marks were  resumably used as guidelines and also acted as identical templates to explore multiple variations for assembly and construction. The marks are in fact pinpricks that resemble the pounced guidelines of a cartoon used to transfer a design onto a fresco. Leonardo was well aware of the transfer techniques of cartoons using bilateral symmetry. It is evident that on other sheets from the Codex Atlanticus, he folded the paper to prick guidelines through both sides of the paper to perceive a symmetrical whole (Bambach, 1999). Evidence of a similar technique can be viewed on this page; a prominent crease down the center. The irregular spacing of the marks coincides exactly, strongly suggesting that at least part of each sketch was pricked simultaneously, or possibly, the pages were first folded and then pricked through all layers.1 This points to an economy, in that Leonardo would not need to recalculate the tiburio, but make minor alterations to the structural form or the stacking of the blocks on identical sheets. In this way, one can view the architect/builder concerned with the solidity of the structure as well as the artist, utilizing known transfer techniques.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice article, did you get this from an online database?

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