The People's Notre-Dame Design Competition

Philipp Nikandrov, Ivan Mylnikov

GORPROJECT

Russia

Designer's Description

The Cathedral as the Temple of God and micromodel of Universe through its architecture, full of symbols and meanings, conveys the principles of religious cosmology and Cosmography (shape and structure of the cosmos in biblical understanding of the Universe, Heaven and Earth). But our understanding of Universe has changed for last centuries and that can be reflected in a contemporary ecclesiastic architecture. A spire in the gothic cathedral declared its presence at a distance and symbolized its connection to heaven. In Notre-Dame the spire in the intersection of nave and transept (center of a cross) has a special meaning as a physical and spiritual link of the Earth and Heaven, the link, transmitting the prayers into heaven. However, in contrast with domes, the spires were always structurally and physically separated from the main cathedral space by dense timber and stone structures. Our concept proposes to reveal and enforce that link by opening the glass spire interior into a cathedral inner space, exposing the sky to all congregants gathered in front of altar. Thus, the spire will bring the light into interior in its most focal point opened to laymen. The spiralling shape of the glass spire evolves in a smooth transition from the vertical cross at the top to 4 wings of the horizontal cross in cathedral plan(four cardinal directions of Earth). The roofs of planar glazing are spanned above the new Notre-Dame museum at attic level, where 12 statues of Apostles are positioned along the nave axis and 4 statues of Evangelists along transept. ‘In the beginning was the Word’…

The Word was a point in time, and in a theory of Big Bang the Universe also started its life from the point of nonentity into eternity in a permanent expansion and spiral rotation of galaxies in a macrocosm driven by gravity and spiral development of species in evolution process driven by time. The visually weightless glass spiral, growing from the point (Creation of Universe) at its top into the veil of glass roof covering the cathedral below symbolises the Universe and blessing of God for the most important ecclesiastic structure in France. The chosen materials of the spire and its structure (frameless planar glazing from triplex glass panels regularly connected by stainless steel spiders) deliberately avoid any visual presence of physical materiality due to transparency of glass. This contemporary material in a very rigid self-bearing folded origami structure provides stunning effects from shining and glowing colorful reflections of sun light to visual dematerialization of the spire delicately disappearing in the sky. Any other solution using original structural materials (timber, stone, cast-iron) would be rather brutal and inappropriate, thus going against the basic principles of The Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (1964), that in article 9 requires to stop any restoration based on conjecture, ‘and in this case any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp’.  Articles 11, 12 and 15 fully support the proposed concept as contemporary replacement of a missing part, that ‘must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original’.

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