Posts tagged with "Notre Dame Cathedral":

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Why are architects focusing on Notre Dame and not St. Landry Parish?

One month ago, all of Paris and people around the world watched as flames rose high into the air above France's beloved Notre Dame Cathedral. The sight was tragic and left many asking how, why, and what next. The response was immediate and immense. Less than 48 hours after the Notre Dame fire, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced an international design competition to reimagine the iconic arrow-like spire atop the cathedral. In one week, over $1 billion was pledged to restore the cultural icon, with a promise by the president of France himself to rebuild the global landmark in under five years. Within days of that statement, design firms responded eagerly for their chance to impart their ideas on this historic building. For designers, this competition could be viewed as the chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to make a mark on an icon of culture and history. But Notre Dame was far from the only house of worship to suffer catastrophic damage this year. Three historically black churches in Louisiana burned in a series of alleged hate crimes, three churches in Sri Lanka were bombed on Easter Sunday, and a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, was riddled with bullet holes, all just in the past few months. All of these events are tragic too. Why is the design world addressing only one? When the three churches of St. Landry Parish in southern Louisiana burned to the ground in the two weeks between March 26 and April 4, these fires quickly made the national news and became a springboard for conversations around race relations in our country. On a national scale, these discussions were, quite necessarily, about the hateful acts themselves, but failed to address what to do in their aftermath. It wasn’t until the massive financial response to the Notre Dame fire took off that a larger spotlight illuminated the plight of these churches as spaces and places in need of financial support as well. People around the world began donating funds to the Seventh District Baptist Church’s GoFundMe page, which before the Notre Dame fire had only raised $50,000. In the two days following April 15, the day of the Notre Dame fire, the campaign brought in nearly $1 million. This display of generosity was not in multi-million dollar donations but in amounts ranging mostly from $5 to $20. One month later, the church has nearly $2.2 million to rebuild. Despite the money now available, there has been no political charge and few design ideas put forward for the rebuilding of the three Louisiana churches. Does St. Landry Parish not warrant as bold a vision for its rebuilding efforts as Notre Dame? One might say the Louisiana buildings were not on the same playing field as Notre Dame. And it’s true that they didn’t have the same grandeur of scale or the global affinity, but they had people who depended on them all the same. We need to stop idolizing the building as an icon, and instead, honor the people of a place. This is also an opportunity to start bridging the expansive gap of access and inclusion that exists in today’s design community—the glaring lack of diversity within the makeup of our industry and its projects. It is a chance to refocus the lens of design beyond massive, global, and wealthy institutions to include those that capture the essence of all people and all experiences. Design is a tool to bring people together and help foster conversations that can lead to healing. For communities in Louisiana, Christchurch, and Sri Lanka, communities that have had some of their most sacred places ravaged by the violence of hate, a new place can help people mourn what and whom they’ve lost, celebrate those lives, and then, in time, focus on their shared beliefs and common goals. A new place can help people to rise above the negativity of a few and honor the positivity of the whole. We should always remember that design is for everyone, not just those where “funding is not an issue.” So let’s open our ears, our minds, and our hearts to the communities who need their voices heard and let’s expand on the definition of design so that it is no longer rooted in the things that we build but instead is measured by the experiences we shape and the memories we create. Meredith McCarthy, AIA, is a senior associate with Sasaki. She is passionate about advancing equity and inclusion within the industry and through her design work with communities around the world.  
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Architects, engineers, academics urge Macron not to rush Notre Dame reconstruction

The scramble is on to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral before the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, but a concerned coalition of curators, architects, art historians, preservationists, and more have told French president Emmanuel Macron to slow down. In a petition published by the newspaper Le Figaro on April 28, 1,170 signers spoke out against hastily reconstructing Notre Dame. Macron has taken steps since the April 15 fire to speed up the cathedral’s repair, first announcing an international design competition to replace the downed spire, and then the formation of a draft law that would appoint a citizen’s group to oversee the reconstruction. According to The Art Newspaper, the body would have the authority to forgo preservation regulations in the name of meeting the 2024 deadline. Philippe de Montebello, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of the painting department at the Getty Museum, Louvre chief curators Nicolas Milovanovic and Cécile Scailliérez, and a number of prominent French preservationists put their names on the Le Figaro petition. Complicating the issue is that the exact status of Notre Dame is unknown at this point. While the forest of 12th-century wooden support trusses and Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th-century spire were brought down by the fire, the limestone vaults and thick walls remain standing. The cathedral’s three majestic rose windows also remain intact, but experts cautioned that the fire, and subsequent attempt to put it out, could have caused unseen damage to the structure. “Limestone can lose about 75 percent of its strength when it’s exposed to heat over 600 degrees Celsius,” stone conservationist George Wheeler told The Art Newspaper. “And that fire certainly exceeded 600 degrees Celsius in many locations.” Microscopic cracks in the stone and glass caused by rapid heating and cooling will only become apparent once a full survey of the cathedral has been completed. At the time of writing, experts have not yet determined whether the loss of the roof struts have endangered how the building’s weight is distributed, either. The water used to put out the fire still needs to be removed from the church’s interior as well, and much of the mortar will need to be replaced to prevent the growth of mold. Overall, conservationists have estimated that rebuilding Notre Dame to its pre-fire status could take at least a decade; as such, it remains to be seen whether Macron’s timetable is achievable. In the meantime, a number of architects have already jumped at the chance to design a contemporary update to the cathedral.
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Foster + Partners pitches new Notre Dame spire as competition heats up

Norman Foster has jumped into the international competition to design a replacement spire for Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, proposing a glass-and-steel topper to replace the cathedral’s ruined roof. According to an interview in English publication The Times, Foster presented his vision for a new “light and airy” roof for the fire-ravaged cathedral. The previous attic space dated back to the 12th century and was nicknamed “The Forest,” as it contained a tangle of 1,300 timber frames, each coming from a unique oak tree—the sheer amount of wood likely fed the fire that ravaged it last week. Foster’s updated vision for the cathedral calls for installing a glass topper, arched to mimic the original wooden roof, ribbed with lightweight steel supports. The new spire would be made of glass and steel and could potentially include an observation deck at its base. “In every case, the replacement used the most advanced building technology of the age,” Foster told The Guardian. “It never replicated the original. In Chartres, the 12th-century timbers were replaced in the 19th century by a new structure of cast iron and copper. The decision to hold a competition for the rebuilding of Notre Dame is to be applauded because it is an acknowledgment of that tradition of new interventions.” The modernization scheme drew an immediate reaction online, where social media users compared the revamped cathedral to a Foster-designed Apple store or the glass Reichstag dome in Berlin. Additionally, several people pointed out that the plan to flood the interior with light would be hamstrung by the stone vaulted ceiling below the attic space and would blow out any light coming in from the historic stained-glass windows. Of course, Foster isn’t the only architect to propose a radical overhaul of the 19th -century spire. Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, known for his neo-Gothic, laser-cut steel sculptures, announced last week that he would be entering the design competition as well. Since the international competition was announced, plenty of people have gotten creative in envisioning “adaptive reuse” projects that give the historic cathedral a bland, modernist overhaul without regard for its surroundings. Even though these have been done in jest, some of them have come quite close to what Foster has proposed. Foster + Partners has clarified that the illustration formerly accompanying this article was not produced by the office or Norman Foster.
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Dominique Perrault reflects on the Notre Dame Cathedral fire

Notre Dame, the heart of the heart of Paris, treasure of the Île de la Cité, has just suffered one of the most trying moments in its long history. Across all lands and cultures of the world, this drama leaves us speechless, touching the hearts and arresting the gaze of everyone. It reminds us all how much architecture, and indeed every artifact, is a fragile thing. Notre Dame is now tragic proof that the preservation of our rich built heritage, of the tangible traces of the great heights of craftsmanship that have been achieved, wherever they may be, is indispensable. This incandescent wound also reveals the emotional dimension carried by architecture and how its universal cultural value, its unique symbolic force, and its mythical dimension nourish the arts, literature, and every individual’s own, personal geography.

Notre Dame is an absolutely unique place, at the heart of the Île de la Cité, from Roman Lutetia to Greater Paris, a land unto itself. This disaster has aroused an immense wave of emotion in the hearts of architects who every day are building and rebuilding the history of architecture.

Tasked in 2015 with conducting an in-depth study of the means of ensuring the continued urban centrality of the Île de la Cité, in collaboration with Philippe Belaval, President of the Center for National Monuments, this event leaves me particularly heartbroken. We made this “island monument," included on UNESCO's World Heritage List, the focus of innovative research and experimentation concerning the island’s future that was open to the participation of the public.

The rebuilding of Notre Dame will be an extremely delicate undertaking, and we must not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the irreversible loss of the medieval ribbed roof, also known as “the forest." Our heritage is a sedimentation deposited across the ages, with practically every century leaving its imprint on the cathedral. “Every wave of time superinduces its alluvion." It will have to be rebuilt, and without altering the substance of its heritage.

Therefore, we are compelled to completely review our relation to our heritage and to believe in its capacity for resilience. Notre Dame must be made to live again, and the best way to protect it is to see it through a vision of the future, which, through beauty, will transcend a simple restitution.

Finally, the unique energy of this place must be marshaled to restore to it an even more powerful presence, a wider resonance, transfiguring, amplifying, and exalting it into something else. The stakes regarding the future of this monument are unique. For Notre Dame and its island must once again incarnate the beating heart of a city that has become a vast metropolis. A most fascinating challenge indeed.

Dominique Perrault, Architect, Member of the Institut de France

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral also potentially threatened by fire this week

In the wake of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, cities around the world are surely taking note on how to best preserve and protect local architectural landmarks. In New York, two highly-trafficked churches, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, have already come under closer watch. Vice News reported that on Wednesday night, New York City Police counterterrorism officers arrested Marc Lamparello, an adjunct lecturer in philosophy at Lehman College, who walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral with four gallons of gas, several bottles of lighter fluid, and a handful of lighters. While officials are still unsure whether he planned to commit a crime, the 37-year-old suspect was “emotionally disturbed,” police said. Lamparello has been charged with attempted arson, reckless endangerment, and trespassing as of this afternoon, according to the NYPD News's Twitter.  The neo-Gothic church sits on Fifth Avenue across from Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan. Completed in 1878, it was designed by renowned architect James Renwick, Jr. Today, it’s one of the city’s most iconic places of worship and a National Historic Landmark that sees an influx of over 5 million visitors each year. The cathedral has been added on to and renovated extensively since first opening; MBB Architects most recently completed a $177 million restoration of the building in 2015. This isn’t the first time St. Patrick’s has been subject to some form of terrorism. In 1914 and 1915, respectively, a small bomb exploded on the northwest corner of the cathedral and a trio of Italian anarchists tried to detonate a bomb inside the church. While St. Patrick's Cathedral was only threatened with potential arson this week, a beloved parish uptown actually did get some real heat. The crypt at the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic Revival structure in the world, caught fire on Sunday morning. New York Daily News reported that a small blaze broke out at 10 a.m. and was extinguished by the fire department in under an hour. Located in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood, the late-19th-century piece of architecture was most recently renovated in 2008 after a 2001 fire swept through the north transept of the church, damaging the gift shop and a bit of its famous Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. In 2017, the building and its historic grounds were designated a New York City Landmark.
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Here’s what saved the Notre Dame Cathedral from total destruction

The world watched in total shock on Monday evening as a devastating fire ravaged parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. For a moment it looked like the French landmark might be lost completely, but firefighters acted quickly to save the 850-year-old Gothic church. Though a battered version of its former self, Notre Dame still stands today largely because its 226-foot twin bell towers were kept from ruin. “The bell towers are actually like bookends,” noted Thomas Leslie, a Gothic structures specialist and the Morrill Professor of Architecture at Iowa State University. “They keep the last vaults from toppling over or spreading out. A lot of people know that flying buttresses are supporting the vaults in one direction from the exterior, but those vaults also want to collapse along the nave. If stone bell towers, which have wooden structures inside them, had ignited and had collapsed, the whole cathedral could have come down in an instant.” In other words, at some point the Paris Fire Brigade made the decision to stop focusing on the expansive roof fire, and spend its resources on the stone bell towers, both of which date back to the mid-13th century. “The roof was a lost cause and they knew it wasn’t going to lead to the collapse of the building’s skeleton,” asserted Leslie. When the fire began around 6:50 p.m. on Monday, panic spread throughout the world about the Notre Dame’s potential downfall. A roof fire, by most standards, is catastrophic. But what much of the media didn’t realize at first, Leslie argued, was that the wooden roof was detached from the structure itself and couldn’t trigger the building's total collapse. Enough heat, however, could melt the masonry over the nave—the stonework on the structure was already under close watch. For the past few years, Notre Dame has been undergoing an extensive, $6.8 million restoration. A piece of medieval construction, it’s been renovated and added onto several times in its history. The 315-foot-tall oak spire that fell in the fire was designed by French architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and installed in 1860 after the French Revolution and the elements had damaged the structure. Luckily, the 16 copper statues of the 12 apostles and four evangelists that sat at the spire’s base were removed for cleaning just last week and thus spared from the fire. Along with the stone bell towers, the famed trio of round stained-glass windows survived the fire, including the famous South Rose window, which was donated by King St. Louis in 1260. The deputy mayor of Paris said Notre Dame’s 8,000-pipe Great Organ also sustained the event though it did suffer repairable damages. Several news outlets have reported the church’s irreplaceable art and artifacts were rescued and transferred to the Louvre Museum for safe keeping. While these elements were saved, there’s a gaping hole left now in the nave less than 48 hours after the fire, exposing the interior of the cathedral. For Leslie, it’s the water damage done by the fire squad that’s even more concerning. “When you walk into a cathedral, what you see on the inside is the stone vaulting, there for structural and spatial reasons,” he said. “The timber roof above it essentially for weatherproofing. It keeps rain, snow, and ice off the limestone vaults. I noticed through images that water had pretty clearly penetrated the mortar joints in the surviving vaults. Limestone and lime mortar are both vulnerable to fire in the sense that they don’t burn, they turn into powder.” Securing the existing stonework within Notre Dame and protecting it from weather-damage in the near future are undoubtedly top of mind for the temporary restoration effort moving forward. For the long term, President Emmanuel Macron has promised a rebuild and people have already pledged over $900 million towards the planned reconstruction. Even an international competition to redesign the spire ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris has already been launched. Lisa Ackerman, interim CEO for the New York–based World Monument Fund, noted the energy of the moment. “The good thing about all this is that we live in a world where you find out about tragedies instantly and we’ve found both the outpouring of financial support for Notre Dame to be tremendous, as well as the outpouring of assistance from experts who can help rebuild." For example, the late art historian Andrew Tallon from Vassar College had scanned the entire cathedral with an accuracy within five millimeters. His detailed work is laid out in a stunning 3D laser map of Notre Dame, a piece of pivotal documentation that will likely be used in the restoration efforts. Even the popular video game Assassin’s Creed Unity, which is set in Paris, could be helpful. It’s publisher, Ubisoft, has offered expertise. Collecting global documentation of Notre Dame will help in the upcoming work to stabilize the building for centuries to come. Integrating fire-safe products in the reconstruction, said Ackerman, will help ensure a catastrophic disaster like this doesn’t happen again. “Preservation is always an act of negotiating the past with the present and the visual aesthetic qualities of the structure with new knowledge we have about materials,” she said. “The greatest danger to a historic building is when people think its issues are permanently resolved. Hopefully this was a reminder that many of the sites we take for granted actually have needs and must be continually repaired and investigated for their own wellbeing. If we defer maintenance, we endanger buildings in ways that are clearly unimaginable.”
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France launches an international competition to rebuild Notre Dame’s spire

After the Notre Dame Cathedral tragically caught fire earlier this week, it seemed that work to rebuild what was lost could take decades. However, in a televised address last night, French president Emmanuel Macron declared that he would be pushing an ambitious five-year schedule and would be reopening the cathedral in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Additionally, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced that France would be holding an international design competition to rebuild the cathedral’s downed spire. “This is obviously a huge challenge, a historic responsibility,” said Philippe, adding that the new design should be “adapted to technologies and challenges of our times.” Rather than strictly recreating Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc’s original barbed spire from the mid-1800s (itself an invention added after the French Revolution and wind damage left the cathedral in shambles), Philippe questioned if it was time to modernize the building. Philippe reportedly asked, "whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc…or if, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre-Dame with a new spire." No timetable or cost for the spire competition has been announced as of yet, but funding likely won’t be an issue. At the time of writing, $900 million has been pledged for Notre Dame’s reconstruction as hundred-million-Euro donations from some of the world’s wealthiest people and corporations continue to flow towards the project.
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Paris’s historic Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames

A large fire has engulfed Paris’s historic Notre Dame Cathedral, causing an incredible amount of damage to the 800-year-old stone and wood structure. Reports of the fire started circulating online late Monday afternoon, Paris time, as tourists and residents posted photos and videos of the blaze on social media. As of Monday evening, the majority of the blaze had been contained, though it had not been entirely put out. Initial reports indicate that the main structure has been “saved and preserved” despite substantial damage to other elements. Portions of the transept and nave roof collapsed during the blaze, as did the cathedral’s main spire. Reports indicate that the cathedral’s main western stained glass rosette window has been destroyed, as well. Other reports indicate that other stained glass windows remain but their status is not entirely known at this time. Many of the relics held at the church—including the Crown of Thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ—were promptly removed and secured, according to authorities. Because of ongoing restoration work, large bronze statues depicting the twelve apostles typically located near the spire that collapsed, including a statue of St. Thomas the Apostle bearing the likeness of architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, were recently relocated to southern France for restoration. Following the blaze, French citizens took to the streets singing prayer songs and chanting in solidarity and mourning for France’s premier cultural and religious site. The cathedral welcomes over 13 million tourists every year according to official estimates and was currently undergoing restoration work. Some of the initial images seen from inside the still smoldering nave of the church taken by journalists Monday night showed damage that appeared less dire than originally feared. In short order, France’s wealthiest citizens began pledging large donations to help pay for the restoration of the cathedral. So far, over $600 million has been promised to the project. “This cathedral will be rebuilt, I promise you," French president Emmanuel Macron said in a speech following the blaze while announcing that a national campaign will get underway on Tuesday to collect the funds necessary for the rebuilding effort. Macron added, “We will rebuild Notre Dame because that is what the French expect and it is what the French deserve.”