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Notre Dame’s story is one of tension. Over the course of its long history, that tension has taken numerous forms: tension between the light of the stained glass windows and the dark shadows of the interior spaces, tension between old histories and new (as apparent in Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th-century renovation, which added the cathedral’s iconic spire), or contemporary tension between the sacred quality of the space and its status as a major tourist destination.Now, the tragedy that has left Notre Dame in disrepair has become a point of contention not only among the architectural community, but among Parisians, French citizens, and other people throughout the world. Although the restoration of the cathedral offers opportunities to breathe new life into the structure, it also creates tension between the old and the new.This design seeks to address these tensions in multiple ways. The modern concrete trusses are designed through topological optimization and fabricated with state-of-the-art technology, but nevertheless speak to the building’s history. Although the new trusses are thinner and lighter than the original heavy timber framing that was lost in the fire, their branching forms reference the forest from which the original timber came, and for which it was named. Catwalks hang from the trusses, creating a space suspended between the old and the new. When looking up, one is reminded of modernity, but when looking down one sees the tops of the beautiful Gothic vaulting. Finally, in the center of the roof a void traces the area where the spire once stood. At night the void is lit from within―a beacon of hope to all who see it. In this space of dramatic light and dark, visitors can contemplate the new metaphorical apex of the cathedral, and the intersection of histories, old and new.
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