History and the Fire (10:26)
The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is part of France’s identity and the peak of medieval engineering. On April 15, 2019, a fire engulfs its roof, threatening to collapse the entire structure. Investigations ensue and President Emmanuel Macron promises to rebuild the structure within five years.
Surveying Fire Damage (03:39)
Tasked with conserving Notre Dame, architect Philipe Villeneuve faces several challenges. The oak roof and spire are destroyed, lead contaminates the site, and the stone vaulting could collapse the entire building. He gathers a team of scientists, architects, and engineers to investigate damages and rebuild.
Stabilizing Notre Dame for Repairs (02:42)
To avert wall collapse during restoration, workers built timber frames under the buttresses. The cathedral’s lead covering the roof melted in the fire, contaminating the site. Restoration team members wear protective clothing and took precautions to avoid exposure.
Repairs: Roof Engineering (03:00)
Engineers plan to stabilize and repair scaffolding to install a temporary roof, protecting inside workers. Architects use data to construct a digital copy of the cathedral, providing a blueprint for its restoration.
Repairs: Stained Glass Windows (08:29)
The cathedral’s three levels of windows date to the 13th century. They remain intact but have a coating of toxic lead powder. Scientists determine cleaning methods and discover the upper panels are cracked from thermal shock; they will use protective glazing as a safeguard.
Repairs: Limestone (08:12)
Vaulting protected the cathedral’s windows from the roof fire and collapse; medieval engineers used limestone for walls, structural elements, and sculptures. Scientists locate the same type of stones in Paris’s old quarry mines.
Repairs: Timber Roof (11:03)
The cathedral's roof was made from 1,300 trees, hand-picked for specific functions; all the beams burned in the fire. Timber scientists catalog all the pieces and use data and digital scans to determine the best replacements and reconstruction methods.
A Year After the Fire (02:27)
The fire’s cause remains unknown, and restoration work continues. Notre Dame is important to French identity; architects, scientists, and engineers work together on reconstruction. A digital copy will allow preservation for current and future generations.
Credits: Saving Notre Dame (01:05)
Credits: Saving Notre Dame
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