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When one thinks about the greatest cities of the world, one imagines the unique character of each place and region. The architectural identity of Paris is distinct from Venice, which is distinct from London, and again distinct from Marrakech, New Delhi, and Kyoto. The identity of a place is directly tied to the shared architectural language of each region and culture. These identities emerge and evolve over time, but always within a coherent, holistic, and communal framework. This architectural heritage is what Viollet-le-Duc understood and utilized in the design of the spire at Notre Dame. Looking to continue this tradition and utilize a place-based design method, we looked towards French precedent for its knowledge and inspiration.

Our Precedent for the Ephemeral Cathedral

For centuries, master builders and masons of the compagnons created unparalleled works of wood and stone such as the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. During the 19th and early 20th centuries in Paris, several new buildings added to the brilliant vocabulary of the evolution of the architectural language in France. Their mastery of steel emerged as an exciting option to create engaging structures that are still enjoyed today. Many of the architects and engineers who designed these edifices were trained in the famed Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.

Below are just a selection of images we used for inspiration as well as a selection of historic maps to help show Notre Dame in wider historical context.

Buildings such as the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Musée d'Orsay, La Tour de Eiffel, and Notre-Dame-du-Travail used the advantages of steel to span greater distances and heights while using less material than stone or brick would have required. They retained forms and ornamentation that would have been familiar to previous generations, but otherwise not needed. These buildings are the latest steps in the traditions of classical architectural design, and they inspire and invite present day designers to continue this architectural language.

To develop our concept for the temporary cathedral for Notre Dame, we looked to this tradition and found an invaluable resource.  Combining modern technology in metal production with craftsmanship allowed by a developing tradition, these concepts provide for a structure that can be constructed quickly and is adaptable to the needs of the congregation.  While such a building is temporary in its initial service to Notre Dame, it can be designed to serve the community for however long a full restoration would require and could be disassembled and reused for other public function elsewhere

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