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Notre-Dame: France announces international competition to rebuild spire

notre dame shutterstock 92702827

France has announced an international architecture competition to rebuild the spire of Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral after it collapsed in a major fire

Prime minister Édouard Philippe said the contest would ensure the heavily damaged landmark would receive a new ‘spire adapted to techniques and challenges of our times’.

The promise to hold a competition comes shortly after French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the 850-year-old cathedral within five years.

More than £700 million has so far been donated to cover the costs of reconstruction, although there is no official estimate of the eventual price tag.

Philippe’s announcement followed a special cabinet meeting focusing on the devastating fire, which engulfed the medieval landmark on Monday evening. The prime minister said reconstruction would be ‘a huge challenge, a historic responsibility’.

According to the BBC, Philippe questioned whether it was necessary to replicate the tower, which was designed by French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1844, ‘or if, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre-Dame with a new spire’.

Parisians watched in horror on Monday as the cathedral spire collapsed while 400 firefighters battled to extinguish the flames.

While the spire and roof collapsed, the main structure, comprising the UNESCO world heritage landmark’s two rectangular bell towers, has survived. 

Farshid Moussavi, founder of Farshid Moussavi Architecture, said the rebuilding of Notre-Dame provided an opportunity to recreate the bringing together of talent and donations which created the original medieval structure. 

‘The rebuilding of Notre-Dame is an opportunity to expand that history,’ she said. ‘Whereas the political landscape in the Gothic era was based on each country competing with each other to show their piety, today, we can come together as an international community to rebuild Notre-Dame because it is a world heritage landmark.’

French architect Irène Djao-Rakitine said the ‘best artisans and architects in the world’ would be needed to restore the landmark. ‘Support is already coming from all around the world,’ she said. ‘It’s becoming an opportunity to build together a symbol of peace that will hopefully last.’

Speaking on Monocle 24, University of Liverpool visiting professor of architecture Alan Dunlopp suggested France should ‘do something contemporary, something new, something that represents a foprward thinking country.’

He said: ‘In Scotland I was one of the few people who said we should build something new after the Glasgow School of Art fire. To my amazement they [the French] have said they will conserider building something new. I applaud their ambition, elan and chutzpah.’

Details on the competition have yet to be announced.


Readers' comments (16)

  • Violet-le-Duc had some funny ideas and was a conservation architect. The time frame of 5 years is insane, it could take decades. As for the flèche, recreation of the an architectural conjecture by the French Pugin manque is a wasted opportunity. We need a symbol of hope for the future, such as the Skylon in red, white and blue. Possibly with a zip wire attached so that Macron can do a Boris, and combine fornication with travel.

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  • Probably non-pc to mention it, but I wonder if Macron's time scale for reconstruction reflects a determination to show himself in the most resolute light possible? His performance brings to mind that of Margaret Thatcher just after Galtieri and co invaded the Falklands.

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  • Macron has taken on a Napoleonic/de Guelle manque air and needs to reflect on the fact that he would not have a nation, if it were not for the Allies’ immense sacrifices in two world wars. He could probably complete his appalling Marianne impersonation by bearing his chest, and donning a gillet jeune and a handbag.

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  • Frances Maria

    Whatever replaces the lost spire needs to be fire resistant

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  • This is all getting very verbose, something the French are very good at! They are also, like us, good at producing, and allowing brave new solutions. The pyramid in the Louvre?La Defense enfilading with the Arc de Triomphe? But old Paris is preserved in Aspic, rather than being allowed to grow upwards wherever like London?!

    We went to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at the New WIMBLEDON Theatre on Thursday. No orchestra, close up to a smaller stage, same music, totally different choreography and costumes. Brilliant evening! Now on tour, Hull this week. Go and see it. A night to remember. Blows the fuddy duddies into 2019?

    The competition entries for the rebuilding of Notre Dame will be amazing? 500 from all over the world? Arups will be the engineers of course. Macron will mastermind the opening ceremony. Gilet Jaune to escort??

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  • Donations from the incredibly rich Catholic Church are remarkable by their absence.

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