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Atlanta architects pitch vision for restored Notre Dame Cathedral

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How should the centuries-old Paris cathedral be revived?

a rendering of a restored cathedral
Atlanta-based architects want to activate the space around the Notre Dame Cathedral while it undergoes a major restoration.
A Vision for Notre Dame

The world watched in awe last month as a raging fire devastated an iconic architectural masterpiece that has stood for nearly 900 years.

On April 15, Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, originally built between the 12th and 13th centuries, was ablaze, and the global icon lost its spire and most of its roof. It’s not yet known exactly what caused the tragic fire, but Paris leaders immediately launched efforts to restore the age-old structure.

An international design contest was organized to find architects who could rebuild or replace the roof and spire—a move that drew criticism from heritage academics around the globe—and French President Emmanuel Macron promised the church would be repaired and open to the public within five years.

Now, a small team of Atlanta-based architects has stepped up with their own ideas for Notre Dame.

“The restoration period for Notre Dame will be a lengthy process, but one that is worth the utmost care and effort and not one that should be rushed for the sake of time,” the Atlanta group wrote on a new website. “After talking with a series of professionals, we realized the process could take 10 or more years to complete correctly.”

The architects, Jacques Levet, Rene Salas, and Reinaldo Hernandez, say their proposal addresses not just how to restore the rooftop, but also “how the site surrounding Notre Dame can be used during the restoration process.”

A Vision for Notre Dame

As for the roof itself, they believe it should be restored to its former glory, without any new-age flair, as some armchair architects have suggested.

“We feel the rebuilding of Notre Dame should be a public process and the site should convey the important meanings of what has existed there, the traditions that contributed toward its development, and the people that materialized and crafted it,” Levet wrote in an email to Curbed Atlanta.

The group’s vision entails building a smaller “Ephemeral Cathedral” to serve as a religious space in the Notre Dame’s stead, as well as “The Craftsmen’s Workshop,” which would celebrate “a long lineage of knowledge” that inspires the work of those today.

Of course, not everyone is taking such a tactful—or reverent—approach to reviving the damaged cathedral.

Some jokesters have reimagined Notre Dame’s rooftop as a massive pool. Others, a colossal parking lot.

Some people want to see modern accents on the centuries-old structure.

Thankfully, there remain plenty of people like Levet, Salas, and Hernandez, who believe Notre Dame should be returned to its former self.