The People's Notre-Dame Design Competition

Grant Bicknell, Thomas Kriel

South Africa

Designer's Description

Interfaith space as a catalyst for embracing our common humanity The world is going through a phase of turmoil and extremes—whether it be religious, political, environmental or economical, all have the effect of polarising opinions and ideologies. France is not exempt from these catalysts of change with anti-immigration sentiment, terrorist attacks and radicalisation all on the rise and of great concern to the people of France resulting in a detrimental breakdown of French public cohesion. Similarly, the Catholic Church is going through a transitional period where it is trying to overcome a perceived public image of intolerance, an insular nature and a fear of change. As a guiding light to the people of France and the world, the Catholic Church has a responsibility to act as a beacon of positive change. The Notre-Dame de Paris has always been a constant and enduring symbol of French identity throughout its history. The significant cultural gravitas inherent in its built form affords it the opportunity—through careful and considered alteration and addition—to affect a positive change in the mindsets of the people of France and the rest of the world. The proposed roof intervention recommends the introduction of a functional spiritual haven housed in the former roof of the Notre-Dame where spiritual and non-spiritual leaders of all backgrounds will spread messages of positivity and acceptance. This space is intended to be open to people of all religions, backgrounds and cultures and is placed on top of one of the most recognisable landmarks in France and the world and housed in the roof structure of one of Catholicism’s most recognisable symbols, an uncharacteristically progressive act of genuine humility from the Catholic Church where it places the needs of the people and of the world before that of its own. Placing such a controversial and thought-provoking intervention on top of the Notre-Dame effortlessly conveys a message of acceptance and inclusiveness to the people of France and the rest of the world that will ripple throughout society and history.The structure of the proposed roof intervention is configured in a timber lattice framework to create uncluttered and open interior spaces whilst referencing the materiality of the former roof’s oak trusses. The interior spaces are sculpted out of the rigid timber lattice and burnt oak wood to form flowing and continuous spaces of reflection and to reference the sculptural flying buttresses of the iconic gothic structure below. A composite skin consisting out of copper mesh sandwiched between glass panels acts as a sun attenuation device reducing glare and solar gain whilst allowing for connecting views of the city below. The copper lends a solid appearance to the exterior of the roof during the day yet transforms into a transparent skin when viewed from the interior and at night—hinting at the transition both France and the world are undergoing towards truly embracing diversity and our common humanity.

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