The People's Notre-Dame Design Competition

Leon Koenders

Netherlands

Designer's Description

The Chapter of the LightWith great disaster comes great opportunity: the opportunity to reshape history for all eternity. The recent disaster now leaves us with an unfinished icon. We currently face the challenge of completing the Notre-Dame in a way that makes sense as the next chapter following the course of history up until today.The life span of the Notre-Dame consists of different distinctive phases. It starts with a long process of construction throughout the Middle Ages. This period is of vital influence on the architectonic appearance of the church. Typical figures, forms, construction methods and principles that are still recognisable and visible in today’s architecture remind us of a time in history when the means to create these weren’t in excess. Even though we still use these construction methods, or derivatives from it, today. The building lasted throughout the ages until the French Revolution, when the building faced its first physical challenge. This led to a restoration period lasting for 23 years and the construction of the spire. This, in a way, reminds us of the fact that the building has faced destruction before, has been resurrected from it, better than it was before. Let this be our goal for today’s restoration.This typical rich example of religious architecture makes the icon what it is.Throughout the ages and up until today the symbolical feature is that it brings people together. Firstly, for the service and practise of faith, nowadays to behold the beauty and overwhelmingness of the building. However, throughout the ages one fundamental function has never left the spirit of the Notre-Dame: for an individual to contemplate.One of today’s greatest threats to this type of architecture is the digitalisation of the world. A decreasing number of people choose to implement the techniques used to properly restore a historic building. Let the Notre-Dame be an example of the contemplation that to continue to give icons like this one a durable future, we need to pass on the proper techniques of restoration.The roof can be properly fixed, bricks can be cleaned and re-painted, glass can be coloured and restored. The question is: what is the real scar on the building that we are left with? The collapse of the spire does not only show on the outside, but also on the inside. It is no coincidence that the fires from hell opened up the sky to heaven from the inside out. Rejoice that the eye of God now gazes upon the altar by converging the light of the sky towards the centre of the church. The new spire will function as a prism, taking in sunlight and directing it through the oculus in the ceiling of the church upon the altar. At night, the spire shoots colourful light out into the sky marking the scar in time. This is how we make our mark, and by doing so writing a new chapter in the life of the church. The Chapter of the Light.

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