(PARIS) — Two days after fire broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral, swallowing both the wooden roof and the spire, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced an international competition of architecture to decide whether to rebuild under the same conditions or endow it with a new spire “adapted to the techniques and issues of our time.”
Ever since, architects, landscape artists and graphic designers from France and beyond have answered the call, imagining the Notre Dame of tomorrow.
The proposal from landscape artist and architect Clément Willemin features a garden roof with walking paths around wild-looking bushes, plants and flowers. It received immediate reactions and has been viewed online 7 million times, receiving 70,000 likes.
But others’ views have been mixed.
“Some people insult me, others tell me, ‘I pray for you,’” Willemin says.
He doubts that his project will be picked, saying “my point was more to feed the debate than anything.”
Brazilian architect Alexandre Fantozzi told ABC News he was celebrating Easter with his family when he thought of a roof and spire totally covered with stained glass windows — “the biggest Gothic feature,” Fantozzi said.
Graphic designer Anthony Séjourné told ABC News he wanted to contrast the heaviness of the original spire, which crumbled to the ground in the fire, with a projecting beam of light that would pierce the clouds, thus keeping the original spiritual symbol of wanting to get to the heavens.
Parisian architect Alexandre Chassang told ABC News he imagines a glass shard-looking spire.
For NAB design founder Nicolas Abdelkader, Notre Dame’s reconstruction is an opportunity to tackle social and environmental issues, “values dear to the Church and presumably to the French state,” he told ABC News.
He makes the roof a greenhouse dedicated to training the unemployed in urban agriculture, horticulture and permaculture, and makes the spire into a giant hive for the bees miraculously saved during the fire.
“We could produce the famous ‘nectar of the gods’ in the heart of the new spire,” Abdelkader said.
While the projects are creating buzz on social media, some reactions are downright brutal. The architects said they received dozens of insulting emails and abusive comments following the publication of their project.
Just like late I.M. Pei’s pyramid of the Louvre 30 years ago, the discussion over Notre Dame’s reconstruction is triggering passions, dividing France in two camps: the debate between modern and old.
According to a recent poll, 55% of French people dislike the idea of an international competition because they want the spire to be rebuilt “as it was.” Conservative congressman Nicolas Dupont-Aignan even issued a petition urging to “build identically” and “not disfigure Notre-Dame.”
When Denis Laming first saw the flames atop Notre Dame from his apartment window, he told ABC News that he knew that the roof was lost and that a quarrel between conservatives and modernists would ensue. The architect famous for the French theme park Futuroscope then imagined a roof identical from the outside, but with a sliding mechanism that reveals glass windows to reconcile the nostalgics with the modernists.
Laming’s project was awarded Thursday with a UNESCO label for best reconstruction project on Notre Dame.
For now, no announcement on the international competition rules and starting date has been set, but Laming says that his Cathedral of Light design is being “presented to the relevant institutions.”
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