TWO NEW FILMS FROM NOVA, “SAVING VENICE” AND “REBUILDING NOTRE DAME,” EXPLORE THE FEATS OF CULTURAL RESTORATION TO PRESERVE SOME OF EUROPE’S GREATEST LANDMARKS
— “SAVING VENICE” chronicles the fight to save the historic Italian city from sea level rise, while “REBUILDING NOTRE DAME” offers unique insight into the reconstruction of the famed French cathedral —
SAVING VENICE Premieres Wednesday, September 28 at 9pm ET/8C Followed by
REBUILDING NOTRE DAME Premiering December 14 at 9pm ET/8C on PBS
Films will be Available for Streaming at PBS.org/nova, NOVA on YouTube, and on the PBS Video App
Boston, MA; September 27, 2022—The PBS science series NOVA, a production of GBH, will premiere two new one-hour specials: SAVING VENICE on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 9pm ET/8C followed by REBUILDING NOTRE DAME on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at 9pm ET/8C on PBS. Both films, which will also be available for streaming online at PBS.org/nova, NOVA on YouTube, and on the PBS video app, highlight the fight to preserve beloved sites of European cultural heritage. They chronicle the efforts of engineers, scientists, and craft professionals working at the intersection of history and technology, as they battle against fire and flood to save some of the continent’s most iconic sites.
SAVING VENICE shows both technical and natural methods scientists and urban planners are utilizing to preserve the historic city. REBUILDING NOTRE DAME rejoins the team from NOVA’s 2020 film SAVING NOTRE DAME to discover what innovations the restoration crew have implemented as they push towards the 2024 completion date. In races against the clock, these preservation projects showcase the richness of these sites that have made them so iconic. The teams are working to preserve the historic city and medieval cathedral for centuries of visitors to know and understand.
“These programs highlight how fragile some of our cultural heritage sites truly are. The teams in both cities give a lot of perspective into not only how much effort goes into maintaining these iconic locales, but also bring us an opportunity to appreciate the artistry, skill and vision of those who built and maintained these sites over the centuries,” said NOVA Co-Executive Producer, Chris Schmidt.
“This is an amazing story to continue to watch and see the evolution of preservational techniques and the team’s dedication to their craft,” said NOVA Co-Executive Producer, Julia Cort about REBUILDING NOTRE DAME. “This topic really resonated with viewers of the program we aired back in 2020, SAVING NOTRE DAME, and we are happy to be catching up with this saga now.”
SAVING VENICE chronicles the fight to preserve the Italian city from rising sea levels and the increasingly frequent extreme flooding events. Venice is an ancient city whose architecture, design, and way of life transcend the tourist hype, and is home to famous sites such as the Rialto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace, and the Basilica San Marco. Even more iconic than those sites are Venice’s waterways—comprising 150 canals. Being built so close to the water line, Venice is now one of the cities most at risk from rising sea levels. Scientists and engineers work together to create protective barriers to battle forces of nature, to save the historic city for future generations.
After nearly 20 years of construction and some $8 billion dollars, the city has created a system of enormous flood barriers called the MOSE, designed to stop rising water levels before they reach the city. Seventy-eight individual gates are arranged in four barriers that each stretch over 1,100 feet across the inlets to the lagoon. The enormous gates, each the size of two tennis courts, join to block the high tide. The MOSE is still in its testing phase and it needs to work perfectly in order to save the city from any flooding. Oceanographer Georg Umgiesser, who has been studying Venice’s tides for almost 40 years, is responsible for tracking conditions that could cause sudden, extreme floods, known as Acqua Alta, and alerting Venice officials when such tides are on the way.
During the past 150 years, Venice has experienced 18 of these exceptional high tide events—classified as water level higher than 140 centimeters–seven of which hit the city in the past three years. As weather patterns change around the planet, the storm systems that drive these events are becoming more frequent. Umgiesser and his team remain vigilant as he says, “Venice is a special city. We have to protect it because otherwise generations will lose their history.”
In addition to the efforts of engineers, Venice has natural methods of protection that are also being fortified to work alongside the MOSE. The salt marshes, which naturally grow along the barrier islands, are home to certain plants that help keep the soil higher. Historically, Venetians had a close relationship with the environment. Now, Venice’s shallow tidal lagoon, mudflats and salt marshes are in decline due to erosion from ships. Two-hundred years ago there were nearly 70 square miles of salt marsh, but now there are just 16. Coastal researcher Luca Zaggia is worried about the city and its lagoon, saying, “We must be correct with the environment because we inherited it from the past … and this is what protects Venice from further damages.” Since the 1970s, erosion has caused the lagoon to become more than three feet deeper, causing the threat of flooding to rise.
“Throughout our filming we met scientists and engineers who were all so profoundly passionate about saving the city—even if many originally hailed from far-off cities or countries. That sense of determination was evident, refreshing, and contagious. The overriding message we got from them is that there is no one single solution, rather that saving the city requires many different approaches all working together,” says Director and Producer of SAVING VENICE, Duncan Bulling. “For me that is the lesson that Venice can give to the rest of the world—our best chance of dealing with rising sea level is to embrace nature, and understand how our salt marshes, mangroves and barrier islands are vital in helping us repel the threat of flooding and rising sea level.”
REBUILDING NOTRE DAME takes viewers behind the scenes of the historic restoration process of Paris’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral, as architects, engineers, masons, and timber workers race to rehabilitate the Gothic landmark following the 2019 fire that almost destroyed the building. The structure was left significantly weakened, with concern for the entire cathedral collapsing. The program traces the dramatic human and technical challenges of the project’s first three years, with a behind-the-scenes look at carpenters shaping lumber for the new roof and spire, stone masons repairing gaping holes in the vault, and artisans using traditional techniques to restore stained glass windows.
“It has been a great privilege to document the next chapter of Notre Dame’s astonishing restoration and to spend time with the inspirational scientists, historians and architects who are working to reopen the cathedral in 2024,” said Joby Lubman, Director and Producer of REBUILDING NOTRE DAME.
The film follows Logger Ahmet Cirpan and team as they comb public and private forests around France for 2,000 oak trees that could be used to reconstruct the so-called “forest” structure of the roof. It took huge imagination and levels of engineering to create this exceptional architecture, and the spire became the embodiment of the building and of the Paris skyline. “I only have one goal—repair and rebuild the cathedral, put the rooster on top of the spire and say, ‘mission accomplished,’” says Chief Architect of Historic Monuments, Philippe Villeneuve.
As art historians work on accurately restoring Notre Dame, they discover new complexity to the original site. The team pieces together the restoration process of Architect Eugène Viollet Le Duc, who led the 19th century restoration after the church was ransacked during the French Revolution, discovering that previous restoration projects were motivated not only by mere aesthetics, but also sophisticated engineering decisions.
SAVING VENICE premieres Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 9pm ET/8C on PBS. REBUILDING NOTRE DAME premieres Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at 9pm ET/8C on PBS. Both films will also be available for streaming online at PBS.org/nova, on NOVA’s YouTube channel, and on the PBS video app, and available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast, and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries, and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.
SAVING VENICE is a NOVA Production by Lion Television Limited (an All3 Media Company) for GBH in association with ARTE France. Directed by Duncan Bulling. Produced by Elena Mortelliti and Marco Gangarossa. Executive Producers for Lion Television are Richard Bradley and Tom Watt-Smith. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH.
Original funding for SAVING VENICE is provided by Brilliant Worldwide, Inc., Consumer Cellular, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust with support from Roger Sant.
REBUILDING NOTRE DAME is a NOVA Production by Windfall Films Ltd. (part of the Argonon Group) for GBH in association with BBC. Executive Producer for Windfall Films is Carlo Massarella. Produced and Directed by Joby Lubman and Alessandra Bonomolo. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH.
Original funding for REBUILDING NOTRE DAME is provided by Brilliant Worldwide, Inc., Consumer Cellular, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust with support from Margaret and William Hearst.
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