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France Set to Launch Notre Dame Design Competition

On the evening of Monday 15th of April, the Notre Dame cathedral was engulfed in flames, causing heartbreak across the globe.

While Paris has been struck by disaster, global officials and billionaires have come together to fund a re-build of the historical monument with a current figure of €880 million raised. Contributions from Apple, L’Oreal, Chanel, Dior and Luis Vuitton are included in the restoration fund and following this influx of donations, France is set to launch a new international architectural design competition to focus on the roofline of the structure.

French Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, has said that this is an opportunity to give the building “a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time.”

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, promised that the Notre Dame would be rebuilt to be “more beautiful than before” within a timeframe of five years. Evaluating the current state of the building’s oak frame structure which was gutted by the fire, experts have claimed this predicted time period as highly ambitious. Pierluigi Pericolo – a famous French architect – expects the entire rebuild process to take “less than 15 years” and has labelled it as a “colossal task”. Pericolo is no stranger to such high scale redesigning, as he worked on the restoration of the 19th century Nantes basilica, after fire damage in 2015. He states that the time needed to merely check the stability of the framework could take up to 5 years, telling French radio that “It’s a fundamental step, and very complex, because it’s difficult to send workers into a monument whose vaulted ceilings are swollen with water.”

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“The end of the fire doesn’t mean the edifice is totally saved. The stone can deteriorate when it is exposed to high temperatures and change its mineral composition and fracture inside.”

Jean Claude Bellanger from the artisan’s organization of the Compagnons du Devior has said, “We’ll have to recruit 100 masons, 150 woodworkers and 200 roofers - The problem is that these manual crafts are undervalued and don’t attract many people. We have the firms and the expertise, but there’s a serious lack of young people for this work.”

The notorious Notre Dame was built over a period of nearly 200 years, starting from as early on as the 12th century. The lead covered spire was an addition made in the 19th century and before it’s tragic fall during the fire, it reached up to 93 metres off the ground.

Phillipe added, “The international competition will allow us to ask the question of whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc or, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, whether we should endow Notre Dame with a new spire. This is obviously a huge challenge, a historic responsibility.”

There have been three main structure holes which have been identified by architects; where the spire stood, the transept, and the vault of the north transept. A Paris fire spokesman, Gabriel Plus, stated that the cathedral’s famous rose windows were in good condition however, the gables in which they are set are causing concern as they are “no longer supported by the frame”.

The statues inside the gables have been taken down as a safety measure for the weakened structure and the spire’s bronze rooster was found in a recognisable, yet severely damaged state.

Despite the tragedy which hit the cathedral, this competition will provide an optimistic outlook on the opportunity to adapt this beautiful Gothic artwork, respecting the traditional design while adding distinctive connotations which will highlight our current period.

SpecialistS in Construction Insurance


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