The People's Notre-Dame Design Competition

T. O'Ceallaigh

United Kingdom

Designer's Description

""Forests were the first temples of God....The forests of the Gauls passed in their turn into the temples of our fathers, and our oak forests have thus preserved their sacred origin. These vaults incised with leaves, these socles that support the walls and end brusquely like broken tree trunks, the coolness of the vaults, the shadows of the Sanctuary, the dark aisles, the secret passages, the low doors, all of this evokes in a Gothic church the labyrinths of the forests; it all makes us conscious of religious awe, the mysteries, and the divinity."" François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848). Imagine sitting under a forest and looking upwards towards the sky. Picture thousands of branches and leaves with small amounts of light piercing through. Now imagine sitting in Notre Dame Cathedral, looking upwards towards the ceiling and seeing a similar spectacular show. This cathedral preserves our ancestral link to our ancient forests and the damaged ceiling of Notre Dame can be re-imagined as a forest canopy. Formed of oak wood frames, joining together like branches of trees, they support the reconstructed stone ribs and replace the destroyed stone webs. A combination of octahedral and tetrahedral frames growing upwards towards the sky, they intersect the reinstated roof and morph into a new spire. This spire in turn reflects small amounts of light to the inside. The design does not intend to eliminate the dark atmosphere created by the gothic cathedral but only serves to enhance it. The new forest canopy allows minimal filtered light through adding a new dimension to the existing gothic architecture. The differentiation between old and new acknowledges the damage caused by the fire while respecting the purest meaning of the architecture. This is a new opportunity allowing the roof to become something the original master builders could only dream of. A forest canopy channelling sacred beams of light to the heart of the cathedral.

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