The People's Notre-Dame Design Competition

Richard Mapes

United States

Designer's Description

In 300 years the Notre Dame will be restored to its original glory. The original timbers of the Notre Dame’s roof were hewn from oak trees that were far older and larger than any oak that grows in France today. This design proposes planting gardens in Paris where microclimates could support the healthy growth of oak trees. In 300 years, the trees would be harvested to replace the roof of the cathedral, leaving behind urban public spaces that are tied in memory and heritage to the people of France and the cultural icon that is the Notre Dame.In the meantime, the cathedral's aging stone, artwork, foundations, and windows would slowly and meticulously be repaired below a temporary, lightweight structure that protects the interior of the cathedral from natural elements. While extensive restoration initiatives take place, the health of the oak trees, their success and their care becomes a daily ritual. The trees gently request consideration as living beings with destinies that are intertwined with the fate of the people that encounter them. Challenges facing France and the world – urban densification, climate change, and resource scarcity – will pose threats to these parks. Responding to these threats for the sake of maintaining the oak trees intensifies the daily ritual of engaging with destiny. Furthermore, it enfolds the care of living beings within the restoration efforts of the more static cathedral. The oak gardens would serve as extensions to the history of the iconic Notre Dame, while leaving the physical form of the cathedral intact. The museum-like qualities of the cathedral would find new interactions with the rites and rituals of the street, establishing new points of contact between heritage and culture, and enriching the potency of a living, evolving and increasingly inclusive cultural inheritance of Paris and the Notre Dame.On the site of these oak parks, the contemporary and the ancient, living beings and stone, and culture and history, collide to become inseparable elements of a continuous and dynamic cultural lineage.

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