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The Museum at the International Expo 2008 with an exhibition of historic models

The Spanish city hosted the international exhibition EXPO 2008 which proposed the theme "water as element for the environment and a sustainable development”, focusing on the problems related to water in the contemporary world and the role it plays in situations of extreme lack or increasing calamity.

The Italian Pavilion, realized and supported by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs through the Government Commission for the International Exhibition in Zaragoza 2008, also hosted the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci of Milan. The Pavilion was located in the "Ebro" area, the most scenic one visible from all other Expo sectors.

Leonardo and the water

Inside the Museum, an historic model exhibition from the museum’s own collection, which portrays Leonardo da Vinci’s relationship with water, with a particular focus on transport ways. The models were built in the 1950s, examining and interpreting the drawings by the genius from Vinci.

Waterways are a fundamental stage not only for Leonardo’s investigations, but also for Lombardy’s technological and engineering culture.
Once arrived in Milan, Leonardo investigated and surveyed the channels called Navigli, making some observations to improve them.

Models on display

Some of the models presented at Italy’s Pavilion:

Gulliottine sluice-gate

It is part of Leonardo’s studies concerning the navigability of rivers with irregular water flow. Just like in artificial channels , a boat going both upwards and downwards can cross the water jumps thanks to the sluices.

Bridge channel with clapping door sluices

It allows to cross a water course thanks to a large lock. The lock consists of a system of sluices which allow boats to pass over water drops. Leonardo tried to improve the systems of locks and channels already in use in Milan. This is a mechanism for opening and closing sluice doors: a small wicket with a latch could be operated from above. Once opened, it allowed enough water to pour in so as to balance the pressure on the two sides of the main door. The opening was thus easier.

Diving suit

Designed to work underwater. The bulge of the bomber jacket is meant to contain the air supply in a leather bag. Leonardo also designed an hermetically locked leather bag with a valve to be used for rising and sinking underwater, and some bags filled with sand to be used as weights. Leonardo designed for the diver an ingenious breathing system which makes use of short reeds combined together by means of leather joints. The respiration pipes reach the surface of the water where they are supported and protected by a special floating system that allows the air flow and prevents a water income.

Virtual models

Other models belonging to the Museum collections can be admired in the Italian Pavilion in a “virtual” way. They are video clips showing in 3D how Leonardo’s studies worked.

Mud dredge

This type of mud dredge is designed to clean the beds of lagoon canals and locks . It is placed on two boats and has four revolving paddles operated by a crank. The shape of the dredging crates facilitates the falling of the mud in a raft moored between the two boats. The depth of the excavation is regulated by the vertical sliding of the drum on which the paddles are fixed. The dredge moves forward thanks to a mooring cable which coils round the drum as the wheel turns, thus varying the excavation area.

Hydraulic saw

This mechanical saw works with hydraulic energy. Thanks to a complex system of cog-wheels, which combines the rod and crank with the pawl mechanism, the hydraulic wheel transmits the alternated motion to the saw and to the trolley transporting the logs. This is synchronized to move forward one unit at the time. The functioning of the saw is thus made as automatic as possible.

Machine transforming motion

In this detailed exploded diagram, Leonardo describes a winch that can transform the alternated motion of a lever in the continuous circular motion of a shaft. Each movement of the lever activates one of the toothed rims at a time, which is then blocked by the corresponding wheel by two spring teeth. The two toothed rims alternate in transmitting the movement produced by the lever. The shaft, which can only rotate in one direction, prevents the fall of the weight and facilitates the lifting.

Expo Pictures

The Aragona Pavilion

The Bridge Pavilion by the Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, built on the Ebro river

A panoramic picture over the thematic pavilions

The Iceberg on the Ebro river is a performance stage

The Congress Palace at the end of the Expo Square

Visitors on the Expo Square: on the background the Water Tower and the cableway which connects the Expo with Delicias station

Water Tower: inside

Italian Pavilion: a panoramic picture over the Expo Square

Italian Pavilion: the official inauguration on Saturday June 14

Italian Pavilion: Undersecretary of the Prime Minister's Office Rocco Crimi, cutting the ribbon

Italian Pavilion: Esquiline Venus, from the Capitoline Museums in Rome, a symbol of the Italian Pavilion

Italian Pavilion: Ambassador Claudio Moreno showing the Museum models to the authorities

Italian Pavilion: press conference in the auditorium

Italian Pavilion: visitors in front of Leonardo’s diver


zip Download Expo Pictures 8,99 MB

Expo Zaragoza 2008

14 June - 14 September

THE MUSEUM The institution
History of the museum
Informal Education
International relations
VISITING THE MUSEUM Opening hours and prices
How to reach us
Services and facilities
LEONARDO Exhibiting section
Leonardo i.lab
Leonardesque models
at the museum

The collection of models
Life story