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In April, fire raged through the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral where irreplaceable hundred year old timbers were lost and the history of the cathedral changed forever. How do we cope with such a tragedy that not only shocked the people of France, but the world? We watched the fire burn live from our studio monitors, unbelieving of what was happening and shocked to the core. Everyone in our office felt a definitive loss in both architecture, history, and our personal experiences of Paris. That evening, what was grief turned to hope. Much to the relief of the world, the roof was lost, but the cathedral was saved due to the efforts of the Paris Fire Brigade.The first response in such a tragedy is the desire to return everything back to the way things were - do we accept this historical moment and react anew or preserve the original memory as much as possible?
In nature, fire lays waste to a forest and a new growth begins in its place. Much in the same way a Phoenix rises from the ashes, so too will the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral.In the redesign of the cathedral roof, we acknowledge the fire as a milestone to its history, reflecting on what was there before contrasted with new growth, focusing on history, experience and timeless design. The new design is comprised of horizontal fins that echo the shape and form of the original 12th-century timber structure, roof and spire. When observed directly, the shape and form of the roof becomes transparent and invisible. In oblique views from the interior and exterior, the form is recognizable, harkening back to the past and to the frame and roof that was there before.
The new occupiable space within the roof is purely experiential, providing glimpses of Paris through the fins, reflecting light within, revealing both impressions of past and future. To stand in the intersection of the Crossing of the cathedral, the spire is reborn from the embers, twisting back to its original design, transformed into an experiential structure in both design and spirit, glowing with light.With this reimagined roof design, the Notre Dame Cathedral will continue to be an iconic symbol of Paris and France for centuries to come, symbolizing this historic event in the cathedral’s history through materiality and form.
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