No Glass Spire or Swimming Pool: Notre Dame Cathedral to be Rebuilt Properly Without Modernist Vandalism

Fire struck Notre-Dame on Monday afternoon and destroyed the steeple within hours
Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT/AFP

Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, which was nearly totally lost to fire in April 2019, will be rebuilt as it was, the French government says, defying the calls of modernist architects to seize the opportunity to give the medieval masterpiece a glass and steel overhaul.

The French government has condoned a 3,000-page report by the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture calling for a full and faithful rebuild of Notre Dame cathedral, in a move which French newspaper Le Monde notes will annoy “the concrete lobby and iron lovers”.

Within days of the enormous fire that engulfed the landmark Paris building, architects were vying to release audacious design concepts for a potential modernist redesign of the cathedral, given its roof and interior had been totally stripped out by the blaze. The possibility that this insult could be added to the injury of the fire was made greater when French president Emmanuel Macron — himself given to grandiose and even absurd ideas — said he wanted the cathedral to have an “inventive reconstruction” with a “contemporary architectural gesture”.

 

View of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Friday, July 10, 2020 in Paris. Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt just the way it stood before last year’s devastating fire. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

 

The French government even said the design for the rebuild would be opened to an international architecture competition.

Given the comments came as Apple Store architects Eight Inc proposed replacing the oak and lead roof destroyed in the blaze with plate glass with see-through gargoyles, a fierce battle was triggered between the French Parliament and Senate over how the rebuild would take form.

As Breitbart reported in May 2019, the Senate voted to amend a law governing the reconstruction, mandating that the rebuilt Notre Dame had to conform to the “last known visual condition” before the fire. Not only would this mean aesthetically matching the medieval building, but even attempts to insert modern materials would have to be justified.

Yet despite the vote, with the support of the president and the lower house the decision could still have gone either way. Now after 15 months, the argument has been settled decisively in favour of tradition, with President Macron himself rubber-stamping the authentic reconstruction plan and saying instead of taking a view himself, he would leave it to the experts to decide. The Associated Press reports a statement by the French government on the rebuilding notes the design “favours fidelity to the monument’s form and a restoration of the cathedral in its latest state”.

The roof will be rebuilt in the traditional material of oak beams and trusses, with lead sheets above.

The news of the decision to not vandalise Notre Dame is the second time the cathedral hit the headlines this week. Le Figaro reports a major security breach at the cathedral took place when Greenpeace activists — who are prone to such high-profile actions — were able to enter the secured site and scale a crane being used in the rebuilding effort, covering part of it with a political banner.

Senior figures spoke out following the intrusion, with the French Army general tasked with coordinating the Notre Dame effort explaining it could never be possible to secure the central-Paris location in the same way France secures its nuclear weapons, for instance, but nevertheless conceding “there is a flaw in our system”.

The minister for culture implored others to not try and break into Notre Dame as it undergoes rebuilding work, noting as he did that “these are extremely fragile sites and any intrusion into the Notre-Dame site can have completely harmful consequences”, in reference to the building that less than two years ago came within just minutes of total collapse before firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control. Indeed, conservators have warned the remaining fabric of the building is so fragile after the fire, it may yet still collapse.

 

A Greenpeace activist hangs, on a crane, a giant banner reading “Climate” during a protest against the French government’s politics on environment, on the work site of Notre-Dame Cathedral, in Paris, on July 9, 2020. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP) (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images)

 

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