France invites designers to submit plans to rebuild Notre Dame Spire

The spire was originally designed by the 19th century architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duct. The French prime minister announced that the new spire will be suited to our times.

April 18, 2019 12:25
2 minute read.
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019.

Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. . (photo credit: BENOIT TESSIER /REUTERS)


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French Prime Minster Édouard Philippe announced that France will conduct a competition among noted architects around the world to find a new design for the 19th-century spire that collapsed in a fire on Monday.

The new spire, he said, will be “suited to the techniques and challenges of our time,” the Guardian reported.

While the famous cathedral itself was constructed in the middle ages and gained a special place in French and world culture after the release of the 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo, it is also a changing building that must at times be repaired and altered, he said.

The 19th-century architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duct, famous for his restoration of Gothic architecture around France, held the view that it is the obligation of the modern builder to use the materials and technology of his or her time to reach an ideal vision of the building, even if such a building did not exist in the past.

The spire he designed became an iconic feature in the Parisian skyline, attracting tourists and locals alike.

Philippe said that it remains to be seen if the 19th century spire will be rebuilt, or perhaps “as is often the case in the evolution of heritage,” a new one should be constructed.

Contrasting the vow made by French President Emanuel Macron that the cathedral will be restored in five years’ time, French conservation expert Pierluigi Pericolo warned that it would take 15 years at the very least.

Speaking with French Radio, he explained that the fire might have damaged the stone edifice and weakened it, just to ensure that it’s safe to begin the restoration process would take two to five years, he said.

Another question is where, in our day and age, one can find stone masons and wood workers who could recreate the wonders built by the skillful guild members of the Middle Ages.

Jean-Claude Bellanger of the Compagnons du Devoir, a French guild that had been working in such professions since the Middle Ages in an uninterrupted tradition, warned that while his guild members have the skills and experience needed, they lack young men and women suitable for the work.

“There’s a serious lack of young people for this work,” he told the Guardian.


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