Want to make creations as awesome as this one?

STEAM like Leonardo Erasmus+ project


Platonic solids




General information






Leonardo and Platonic solids



Geodesic Dome

General information

A Platonic solid is a polyhedron where every face is a regular polygon with the same number of edges, and where the same number of faces meet at every vertex. Platonic Solids are the most regular polyhedra: all faces are the same regular polygon, and they look the same at every vertex. There are only five different Platonic solids: the Tetrahedron, Cube, Octahedron, Dodecahedron and Icosahedron.


The original discovery of the platonic solids is unknown. The five regular
polyhedra all appear in nature whether in crystals or in living beings. Around 360 B.C. the regular polyhedra are discussed in the dialogues of Plato, their namesake. Because of Plato's systematic development of a theory of the universe based on the five regular polyhedra, they became known as the Platonic solids.


Plato discovered that there are only five solids with these properties. He believed that they correspond to the four ancient Elements, as well as the Universe.
Fire is associated with the tetrahedron, earth with the cube, air with the octahedron, and water with the icosahedron. Lastly, the dodecahedron is considered to represent the constellations that make up the universe.


Similar to Plato, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler also searched for connections between the regular polyhedra and the natural world. He proposed his model for our solar system. At the time they knew of five planets other than earth. Kepler predicted connections between these five planets and the five Platonic solids.

Kepler’s model of the solar system using the Platonic solids

LEONARDO and Platonic solids

Many artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, as well as and mathematician and Leonardo's friend, Luca Pacoli, used the Platonic Solids in their works as they were interested in the math behind them and the symmetry shown in the solids. Leonardo drew the illustrations for Luca Pacioli's book De Divina Proportione (The Divine Proportion).


The Tetrahedron has four triangular faces and is the smallest Platonic solid. It has 7 axes of symmetry. Plato believed it represents the ancient element Fire. Many molecules have their atoms arranged as a Tetrahedron.

hexahedron (Cube)

The Cube has six quadratic faces and 13 axes of symmetry. Plato believed it represents the ancient element Earth. It is often used for dice. Since it is a “regular” solid, every side has the same probability of landing face up.


The Octahedron has eight triangular faces. It is the “dual” solid of the cube. Plato believed it represents the ancient element Air. Many natural crystals are based on an octahedral lattice – including diamond, alum or fluorite.


The Dodecahedron has 12 pentagonal faces and 31 axes of symmetry. Plato believed that the entire Universe has the shape of a Dodecahedron.


The Icosahedron is the largest Platonic solid and has 20 triangular faces. It is the dual of the Dodecahedron. Plato believed that it represents the element Water. In fact, many viruses, such as herpes, have icosahedral shells.

Examples of origami platonic solids

Geodesic dome

Have you ever seen a geodesic dome? Geodesic domes are sphere like structures made up of interconnected triangles. A famous geodesic dome is Walt Disney World’s Spaceship Earth at Epcot, but geodesic domes are also commonly found as climbing domes at playgrounds.


A Brief History

The world’s first geodesic dome was built by Walter Bauerseld of Zeiss Optical Works in 1922 and was used as a planetarium on the roof. During the 1940’s, inventor R. Buckminster Fuller investigated this type of structure further and named the dome “geodesic” from field experiments with Kenneth Snelson and others at Black Mountain College. Although Fuller was not the original inventor, he further developed this idea and received a U.S. patent for the Geodesic Dome. He worked hard to popularize the structure because he hoped that the geodesic dome could be used to help address the postwar housing crisis.


2. The more triangles that are used in a dome, the rounder it becomes. The frequency of a dome indiciates this relationship such that the higher the number, the rounder the surface.

3. Because hot air rises, warm air inside of a dome can create a rising effect similar to that of a hot-air balloon. This phenomenon can actually lift the dome enough to noticeably change the weight of the entire structure. Larger domes that enclose more hot air experience a stronger lifting force.

1. A Geodesic Dome is a curved, three-dimensional structure formed through a network of triangles. The more complex this network of triangles becomes, the closer it begins to approximate the geometry of a true sphere, or any fraction of one. The word Geodesic comes from the Greek root geodaisia, meaning “division of the Earth.