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Building Wonders: Hagia Sophia - Istanbul's Ancient Mystery (Episode #4204H)

KQED World: Sun, Mar 1, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

The soaring dome of Hagia Sophia dominates Istanbul's skyline. Whether serving as Christian church, Islamic mosque, or secular museum, this magnificent building has inspired reverence and awe. For eight hundred years, it was the largest enclosed building in the world; the Statue of Liberty can fit beneath its dome with room to spare. How has it survived its location on one of the world's most active seismic faults, which has inflicted a dozen devastating earthquakes since it was built in 537 AD? As Istanbul braces for the next big quake, a team of architects and engineers is urgently investigating Hagia Sophia's seismic secrets.
Nova follows the team's discoveries as they examine the building's unique structure and other ingenious design strategies that have insured the dome's survival. At the climax to the show, the engineers build a massive 8-ton model of the building's core structure, place it on a motorized shake table and hit it with a series of simulated quakes, pushing it collapse -a fate that the team is determined to avoid in the real world. The Unshakeable Hagia Sophia is a detective story that reveals how this architectural wonder has proven so resilient for so long, and how it came to serve as a proud expression for the great civilizations that adopted it as a symbol.

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