In April, the world watched the famed Notre-Dame cathedral burn. The 850-year-old building’s roof and spire were incinerated before fire fighters were able to put out the blaze. Just days after the building had been decimated, the French government announced a design competition to rebuild one of the country’s most-visited tourist attractions and historical monuments. It is now undergoing the process of being rebuilt, thanks to the use of 3D scans which has given the rebuilders some direction on what kind of work needs to be done.
Since then, concepts from design studios around the globe begins at the debate about how best to rebuild the cathedral, with some insisting that Notre-Dame should be rebuilt exactly as it was, while others–most notably architect Norman Foster proposed that it should be modernized.
A GARDEN COVERED BY A GLASS ROOF
Many of the people proposing ideas for Notre Dame must have green thumbs, a Belgium-based company by the name of Miysis Studio has come forward with a proposal of their own. Miysis thinks Notre-Dame’s greenhouse should be a garden for the public to enjoy. This proposal reimagines an exact replica of the lost spire, but replacing the former wooden structure that supported the roof with a modern steel and timber version that could create the space for the garden, where it will provide “the right balance between history and future”.
One of the architectural design points of the building is its roof structure also known as the “Forest”. It got the name due to the fact that a lot of wood was used during its construction, and one of the issues trying to rebuild it is that apparently there aren’t enough trees of that size at the moment.
In Miysis Studio’s proposal, they suggest that the use of glass will allow the overall structure to retain its look, thanks to the use of the original proportions, but at the same time offering a slightly futuristic touch. The company’s CEO Denis Stevens said, “We propose to reconstruct the original spire while building a new glass roof. We also wanted to mix traditional wood and new materials to find the right balance between history and future.”
A SPIKY, SOLAR-POWERED ROOF
Why should we rebuild the Notre-Dame roof exactly as it was? The French architecture practice Vincent Callebaut Architectures proposes that the cathedral should be constructed to be more energy-efficient than it was before. The studio’s concept envisions timber beams reinforced with carbon fiber, combined with a glass roof that has a photovoltaic layer embedded within it. The French studio reimagined the damaged cathedral as a place were nature and city connect. The energy captured by the solar roof would be stored in hydrogen fuel cells inside the cathedral. The pitched glass roof is supported by ribs made from cross laminated timber that stretch upwards towards the spire.
Below the glass structure, the studio wants to transform the roof’s attic into an urban farm that uses aquaponics, where fish provide natural fertilizers for plants, to grow fruits and vegetables that the church could give away for free to people in need. The greenhouse is part of the architects’ plan to transform Notre Dame into a net-zero building, where as much energy is produced and used.
The wooden frame would be covered in crystal glass that’s been layered with hydrogen fuel cells, which would absorb light and transform it into power for the rest of the building. Additionally, the spire will serve as a thermo-regulator, storing hot air during the winter and letting in cool, fresh air during the summer, turning the cathedral into an icon of modern sustainability.
A MODERNIST GLASS EXTRAVAGANCE
Russian architect Alexander Nerovnya also think Notre-Dame should embrace the future, not the past. His idea is to replace it with a transparent glass roof in the shape of a diamond.
“Notre Dame will never be the same, no matter how well it’s repaired. So why don’t we use all our knowledge and architectural achievement to make it better?” writes Nerovnya on Instagram, where he shared his firm’s concept for a simple glass roof. “When people come to see the Cathedral they will feel a powerful connection to the history seeing the ancient and the modern parts together.” The idea, which the architect announced on Instagram, has sparked a vigorous debate on the nature of restoration and the role that architecture plays as society and technology evolves. (It’s worth noting that many of his commenters certainly don’t agree; some argue the amount of light would ruin the experience of the stained glass windows, while others just want a replica of the previous roof.) It also harked back to an earlier debate over I.M. Pei’s 71-foot-tall glass-and-metal pyramid in front of the Louvre—derided by many critics in the early 1980s, it became an iconic feature of the Paris cityscape.
“Instead of trying to replicate the original roof, we understand that the fire is part of the history of Notre Dame, therefore it shouldn’t be camouflaged but praised,” partner Julio Rufián Andújar “We propose a new structure composed of glass panels that intends to be as light and transparent as possible, referencing on the rhythm of the existing Gothic structure, in order to avoid any visual confrontation with the existing remains.”
Like its concept for the roof, the studio’s vision for the spire is a similarly radical transformation from the original: it’s entirely made of glass.