Leonardo Sticks

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) invented a great many machines to do an extraordinary number of things. On two pages of sketches Leonardo described a roofing system for spanning large areas without internal support. He shows wooden beams laced together in a particular way so that they are self-supporting, and says this idea can be used to cover a space without internal support, quickly and simply without complicated joints or special tools. The structures are shallow domes that are built starting from a center, supporting themselves on the ends of new sticks added to the edges. Leonardo says that the beams should be tied together with ropes and covered with strips of woven wool. He probably had in mind a shady cover for a space like a marketplace or military camp. There is no record that any of them were ever built.
In 1989 Dutch sculptor Rinus Roelofs was working on ways to divide a sphere and found a system that was simple and elegant. He recognized that in addition to dividing a sphere into solid pieces, he could also make the joints of that division into wooden sticks that interlaced to form the sphere. He invented sticks with two notches to help with alignment. They didn’t need to be tied together as Leonardo’s beams did: their weight alone held them in place.


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