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It was recently reported that the annual
Christmas mass at Notre-Dame de Paris will not take place for the first time
since the French Revolution, and, by the way, the survival of the entire
cathedral, most of which was thought to be saved, remains in doubt. The New
York Times reports
[T]he most urgent threat to Notre-Dame is
thousands of scaffolding tubes — remnants of renovation work from before the
fire — that were welded together by the blaze, creating a mass of twisted metal
of roughly 250 tons that is weighing down on the structure.
Workers are erecting new scaffolding so that
the melted scaffolding, parts of which look like a pile of pickup sticks, can
be gingerly removed. Officials do not know whether their removal will increase
or decrease the stability of the stone structures that did survive the fire of
last April 15.
Time magazine has a brief video
tour of work to save the cathedral. There is a before-and-after video with
the UK Guardian’s story on a spat over design.
That story regards continued uncertainty
after months of back and forth over whether the toppled spire will be rebuilt
to look as it once did (probably using advanced materials and techniques) or in
a more modernist style, as many architects apparently desire. One proposal
calls for a swimming pool on the roof. Months ago, the French senate passed
legislation to mandate a traditional approach, but that’s clearly not the last
The project architect chosen by French
president Emmanuel Macron insists that the new spire will be identical in appearance
to the old spire. But, at a recent
meeting, the general assigned to lead the project by Macron (both are open
to a modernist spire) told the architect that he should “keep his mouth shut.”
The general was reprimanded while the architect, Philippe Villeneuve, stood his
ground, declaring: “Either I restore it identically [and] it will be me, or
they make a contemporary spire and it will be someone else.”
This is an inversion of the typical form, in which politicians (and generals) support tradition, perhaps because that’s what most voters prefer, while the architects want some sort of modernist style. I suspect that the public will win this debate – but it will be moot if the scaffolding is not successfully removed. To pray for that should be part of all our new-year’s resolutions.
Photo: Scaffolding at Notre Dame; note triangular space where roof once stood. (Paris Muse)
David Brussat’s freelance writing
and editing on architecture and others addresses issues of design and culture
locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of
the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur
Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my
wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. https://architecturehereandthere.com/