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The catastrophe of Notre Dame creates pressing new questions for humanity. There is a certain obligation to the past‚ as romantics might say‚ that forces us to rebuild? Or is it to completely deny it and tear down with modernist heroism? What is the role of the church to our contemporary fellows? What is the religious experience in the age of information? Where do the sense of wonder and awe lie? There are very few art forms that unite as much creativity together as the gothic cathedral. Fewer still with the history and memory Notre Dame has. It tells the story of a city and a country. It remembers the birth of Parisienne intellectualism within the cathedral‚Äôs schools; the self-coronation of Napoleon painted by Jacques Louis David; and Matisse‚ as silhouettes emerging from the Seine. A timeless pilgrimage destination for the faithful and the secular alike, Victor Hugo depicts the medieval commotion of Paris, ‚mingled, combined, amalgamated in Notre Dame.‚ A building that changes through the centuries and evolves with the inventions of man, from a simple thick walled building that barely allowed any light in to a museum of ribbed vaults, flying buttresses and stained glass rosettes, it is a living breathing monument as its human creators.It's a reality that destruction creates opportunity and the cathedral is no stranger to it.
When 30 year old Violet LeDuc was planning the reconstruction after the turmoil of the revolution, Merimee famously advised that ‚A restoration may be more disastrous for a monument than the ravages of centuries, encouraging a design that contributed to the language but didn't aim to replace. It's the identity of Notre Dame to change, to evolve with humanity around it. A re-creation would be a flimsy facsimile of its former self, a redesign with historic denial somehow profane. Its next phase must be a continuation of itself, an all encompassing work of art, a medium welcomed by the language of the building. We are to acknowledge the past, raise it up with that heroism. Remember and honour that which has been, those who have built it, and welcome the modern man into a current setting of eternal awe.
I propose a design that above all will listen to the history of the building, honour the tradition of France and keep the architectural language of the cathedral. In my design, Stained glass windows in the shape of Irises and Lilies flock through the ceiling, gradually becoming the spire, elevating the building into light. Becoming thus‚ with LeDuc‚ design acting as a skeleton‚ tower of stained glass with petals that spiral to the sky and coloured light that pierces the building and dances with the stone. Inside this, viewing platforms where Paris shall be seen through the colours of this vision inducing medium. A contemporary Gothic building proportional only to the Saint Chapelle, to offer an experience of the sublime seen through the craft and hand of man, as its spirit so inclines.
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Dwight G. Hartwick Architect