The rebirth of a Gothic icon

Submitted by kathleenodonne… on Wed, 08/28/2019 - 19:11
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"}]],"markups":[["a",["href","https:\/\/\/articles\/6150573-notre-dames-recovery-is-about-stewardship","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/news\/press-releases\/gensler-unveils-design-for-temporary-pavillon-notre-dame"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/news\/press-releases\/gensler-unveils-design-for-temporary-pavillon-notre-dame","target","_new"]],["b"],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/","target","_new"]],["i"],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/projects\/goarchitect\/visions-of-notre-dame"]]],"sections":[[1,"h2",[[0,[],0,"Design\ntherapy seems to be part of Notre-Dame\u2019s recovery, but what does an ideas\ncompetition reveal about its future?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The\nApril 15, 2019 fire at Notre-Dame de Paris might not only serve as a caution\nagainst failed protocols, a paean to brave firefighters, or even a caveat to\nbad luck. It might also serve as the most public and accessible debate about\narchitecture in a generation that will echo far beyond the experiences of 13\nmillion or more people who will attend the site to observe the damage this\nyear. "],[0,[0],1,"This debate has largely\ncentered on stewardship "],[0,[],0,"by voices in a global design community, even if its\ninterpretation seems to divide observers. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"It\ntook mere hours after the fire for French President Emmanuel Macron to declare\nthat the roof and spire would be rebuilt. In the following weeks, designers and\nprovocateurs offered up swimming pools and discoth\u00e8ques as options for the roof\nin the spirit of innovation, which fueled an international debate about probity\nand Parvis Notre-Dame at the symbolic heart of the country."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"It\nseemed as if the debate had concluded when French senators added a clause on\nMay 28 to a National Assembly reconstruction bill that forbade radical changes\nto the cathedral\u2019s appearance in an effort to quell voices who wished, as\nMacron did, to encourage creative solutions to the singular problem of saving\nNotre-Dame."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"This\nbeing France, however, debates tend to linger on for a while, and the National\nAssembly traded versions of the bill (and barbs) with the Senate over this\nissue of aesthetics and integrity, while also ironing out several thorny issues\nrelated to building codes and how to accommodate nearly $1 billion in donation\npledges. On July 16, the final bill passed by a large majority of 99 to 33\n(with eight abstentions): the Ministry of Culture will work to preserve the\nhistoric and architectural \u201cinterest\u201d of the cathedral, but will not prescribe\nthe \u201cform\u201d of the new roof or spire. In other words, the door seemed to be\npropped open for creative solutions for the near term. It would be anyone\u2019s\ngame."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In\nthe meantime, there has been one serious proposal\u2014not for the cathedral, per\nse, but for a temporary worship space. Le Pavillon de Paris, "],[0,[1],1,"Gensler\u0027s co"],[0,[2],1,"ncept"],[0,[1],1," "],[0,[],0,"for the forecourt of\nNotre-Dame de Paris, is basically an airy, luminous box that seems to hover\nover the cobbles. Its cross-bracing on the exterior is backlit by a soft inner\nglow, and the sanctuary within offers parishioners the steady hand of daily\nmass amid the din of street life."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"But,\nin the end, it\u2019s still a box that, if constructed, will be a welcome salve for\nparishioners and a useful way to diffuse nearly 13 million annual visitors. The\nidea was commissioned by Notre-Dame\u2019s Bishop Patrick Chauvet in May to\naccommodate up to 800 worshipers with flexible seating and a unique focal\npoint: behind the temporary altar, its eastern wall opens to reveal the damaged\ncathedral beyond\u2014part stage-set, part beacon, part memento mori, part\ncautionary tale."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"What,\nthen, for Notre-Dame, itself? While the debate will continue in the coming\nmonths, there are a few early ideas proffered not by French architects, but by\na global cadre of designers."]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[3],1,"Bucking \u201cbig-name firms and closed-door\nmeetings\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In\nthe weeks following the fire, the small, independent publisher GoArchitect "],[0,[4],1,"launched an ideas compe"],[0,[5],1,"tition"],[0,[4],1," "],[0,[],0,"open to anyone to reimagine\nthe damaged and lost parts of Notre-Dame. \u201cWe can\u0027t leave this up to the\nbig-name firms and closed-door meetings,\u201d the competition brief read.\n\u201cNotre-Dame was a cathedral for the people and its future should be influenced\nby the people. This design competition will do everything in its power to\ndemonstrate to the decision makers that designers from all over the world\ndeserve a chance.\u201d"]]],[1,"blockquote",[[0,[],0,"\u201cNotre-Dame was a cathedral for the people and its future should be influenced\nby the people.\u0022 -GoArchitect\u0027s \u0022People\u0027s Notre-Dame Competition\u0022 brief"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"More\nthan 30,000 people reportedly voted on 226 project submissions before the\ncompetition ended on June 30, and the winning proposal by Chinese designers\nZeyu Cai and Sibei Li, called \u201cParis Heartbeat,\u201d featured a new spire composed\nof hundreds of mirrors (that, when viewed from the inside, offers a\nkaleidoscopic view of the city outside). At the spire\u2019s peak, they encased a\ntime capsule, to be opened every 50 years, and held in place by magnetic\nlevitation."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"What\u2019s\nthe big "],[0,[6],1,"id\u00e9e"],[0,[],0,", here, anyway? For Cai\nand Li, designers at the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings \u0026 Merrill, it\nis about the reflective power of glass so that \u201cpeople can see the city around\n[them] with the portrait of themselves at the focal point,\u201d according to Cai\nand Li. \u201cSpace and time tangled together in this illusory space.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"One\nwonders if illusory space will require 3D or 4D glasses, or how queueing would\nwork for 13 million people to pass beneath a giant kaleidoscope where the altar\nis supposed to be. One wonders how the church would function under these\nconditions at all."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cIn\nour personal understanding,\u201d says Cai, \u201cthe ultimate meaning for people to go\nto church could be [to] find a leading voice, and this voice may finally come\nfrom people themselves.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"But,\nthe reflexive power of hubris isn\u2019t new to the \u00cele de la Cit\u00e9, nor is it new to\nNotre-Dame, as the work of Eug\u00e8ne-Emanuel Viollet-le-Duc illustrates. Can \u201cthe\npeople themselves\u201d know best when it comes to the future of Notre-Dame?"]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[3],1,"Pour le peuple, par le peuple"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In\naddition to Cai and Li\u2019s winning proposal, GoArchitect \u201cPeople\u2019s Notre-Dame\nCompetition\u201d announced five other finalists who hail from Canada, Japan, the UK\nand the US. When you look at their entries in relation to nine additional\nhonorable mentions, one thing is abundantly clear about the Gothic apotheosis\nNotre-Dame: opus francigenum, once France\u2019s greatest export, is no longer\nsacred, but fungible."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Consider\nthe license these finalists and honorable mentions took: An infinity pool\nsurrounded by runic follies; a roof garden billed as a \u201cfloating forest;\u201d a\nsharp, Brihadisvaran spire clad in actual feathers; a, thin, conical spire\nencircled by an iridescent double-helix."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Geometry\nin Medieval France was not just a practical way to speak a universal\narchitectural language. It was a professional calling card for architects, and\ntheir mastery of geometry ensured the structural and aesthetic correctness of\nthe buildings they created. To invent a new roof and a new spire at Notre-Dame\nruns counter not just to the cathedral\u2019s historic context, but to the precision\nof geometrical correctness, itself."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"But,\nfor competition finalist Rogerio Carvalheiro, Assoc. AIA, innovation and\ncontext aren\u2019t mutually exclusive, but complementary. His untitled concept\ncenters on an inflatable, translucent fiberglass roof supported by a stainless-steel\nframe, which resembles the lost roof in form and has the benefit of being\nluminescent, inside and out\u2014as an interior lighting source and as a giant\nlantern for the neighborhood. Carvalheiro, an architect based in LA and a vice\nchair for the West Hollywood Planning Commission, chose not to replace the\nspire at all, but instead he proposed a holographic projection to take its\nplace."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022During\nthe day, the purists can have their church, with the projection switched off,\nand at night, the modernists\u2014I call them modernists\u2014 can have their spire,\u201d he\nsays."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Notably,\nCarvalheiro\u0027s proposal is intended to be a temporary way to protect the\ninterior of the building while a more permanent solution can be secured for the\n800-year old cathedral."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022In\nthe end, this cathedral belongs to France and to Paris and its people, but we\nlive in a global world, and I see Notre-Dame the way I see the Taj Mahal or Big\nBen, which have become part of our global culture,\u201d he says. \u201cIf 13 million\nvisit Notre-Dame each year, that\u2019s 13 million annually sharing a collective\nexperience and relationship with the cathedral. As a global citizen, I have been\nmoved by this building over the course of my life multiple times. And that\ninspired me to act.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[]],[10,0],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In\nconjuring \u201cthe people,\u201d Carvalherio, as well as Cai and Li, have also conjured\nan important fact about iconic buildings like Notre-Dame: What is public is\nreally quite personal, and what feels personal to us about a shape or an image\nor an experience is multiplied by however many members of the public visit each\nyear. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"This\ntacit agreement between two worlds\u2014public and private\u2014points to another truth,\naccording to GoArchitect CEO Joshua Sanabria, \u201cMost of what Notre-Dame is\u2014it\u2019s\na really good story that includes Disney movies and actual history, and\neverything in between.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Sanabria\nconceived the competition in response to proposals published online by architects\nand designers trying to make sense of the April 15th fire and what, if\nanything, a new roof and spire could represent. GoArchitect sells themed\nnotebooks and at least one children\u2019s book, Norman\u2019s Architecture Adventure,\nauthored by Sanabria. Sponsoring a competition and capturing the resulting\ndesigns was a creative decision for the designer with an M.Arch. from Andrews\nUniversity, as well as a practical one."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cAnytime\nyou see a strong emotional reaction, it\u2019s a signal from a business\nperspective,\u201d he says. \u201cNotre-Dame comes down to political decision making, and\nI was curious about what people really wanted. So, I figured, let\u2019s open it\nup\u2014let\u2019s make it free\u2014and let\u2019s open it up even more to let people vote.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Sanabria\nlaunched a "],[0,[7],1,"Kickstarter "],[0,[],0,"campaign in July to publish a\nhardcover book featuring all 226 entries, but the campaign\u2019s $27,500 minimum\nfor contributions was out of reach, although he managed to get about one third\nof the way to his goal. On August 15, he scrapped the campaign and scaled down\nthe book to feature the top 50 entries, which Sanabria is currently selling on\nGoArchitect\u2019s site. Even if he\u2019s had to amend his plans to publish the results\nof the competition, Sanabria remains optimistic that how Notre-Dame is\nperceived as a larger-than-life story in and of itself will be just as\nimportant as how it\u2019s regarded as a historic cathedral in the middle of the\nSeine River."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cIt\u2019s\nvisited by millions of people every year. I bet few of them are French. So, it\nhas a larger than life, iconic, symbolic power, and it touches people from\neverywhere,\u201d he says. \u201cThey can rebuild it as it was\u2014that\u2019s fine, okay. But, if\nthey don\u2019t, it should involve some consideration for how people see and use it\nin today\u2019s environment.\u201d"]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[3],1,"Is the past a foreign country?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"After\nreturning to Paris in 1800, just four years before the coronation of Napoleon\nBonaparte on the steps of Notre-Dame, Fran\u00e7ois-Ren\u00e9 de Chateaubriand lamented,\n\u201cthe graveyards with never a cross and the headless statues of saints.\u201d The\nlast chapter of Notre-Dame\u2019s story before the April 2019 fire began at this\nmoment, after the craven but justified revolutionaries spent the better part of\na decade sacking the city and maiming anything remotely having to do with\nofficialdom. \u201cWalls had been brought down and shacks built upon the girdle of\nmarket gardens,\u201d writes the historian Alistair Horne, in the Seven Ages of\nParis. \u201cA worn, wrecked and exhausted city, Paris now smelt more of filthy mud\nand sewage than she had at the worst moments of the Middle Ages.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Notre-Dame,\nitself, had been vandalized almost beyond repair and continued to be neglected\nfor years after the revolution by its new owner, l\u0027\u00e9tat, until Victor Hugo\u2019s\nportrayal of the courageous Quasimodo Sunday appeared in 1830 to wide acclaim.\nThe Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the love story and Romantic tragedy before it\nbecame a Disney movie, was not only popular with readers, but galvanized what\ncan only be considered the birth of the modern preservation movement in France.\nLess than a decade later, the government launched a competition to restore its\nfa\u00e7ade, handily won by Viollet-le-Duc and his colleague, the architect\nJean-Baptiste Lassus. So began another story within a story\u2014an imagined\nMedieval past cast in iron and carved in stone, which became the basis of a new\ncathedral, of sorts. This is the story we know today, and the story that was\nirretrievably altered on April 15."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"With\nstories as potent as this\u2014and perhaps there is none more potent than\nNotre-Dame\u2019s\u2014can we write future chapters upon this palimpsest? All it takes is\none good idea, it seems, but a better story might be the conversation it\ncreates."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cMy\nneighbors in Los Angeles, who are from France and live in Paris some of the\ntime\u2014they respect my proposal,\u201d says Carvalheiro. \u201cBut, they also can\u2019t let go\nof what\u2019s appropriate [at Notre-Dame]. \u201cFor me,\u201d he says, \u201cmy proposal is an\nidea. It\u2019s the start of a dialogue that can raise possible solutions.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[6],1,"William Richards is a writer and\narchitectural historian based in Washington, D.C. He is the author of "],[0,[],0,"Revolt and Reform in\nArchitecture\u2019s Academy: Urban Renewal, Race, and the Rise of Design in the\nPublic Interest "],[0,[6],1,"(Routledge, 2017) and the\nforthcoming "],[0,[],0,"Living in Nature: Bamboo Houses and Design"],[0,[6],1," (Princeton Architectural Press)."]]]]}
Design therapy seems to be part of Notre-Dame’s recovery, but what does an ideas competition reveal about its future?
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"Paris Heartbeat," designed by Zeyu Cai and Sibei Li, is the winning proposal of GoArchitect's People's Notre-Dame Competition.
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The rebirth of a Gothic icon
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