Rebuilding Notre Dame: A Guide for Architectural Technicians

News spread quickly about the fire that broke out at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In total, the cathedral lost a large portion of its roof as well as its spire, turning some iconic architectural components into ash.

Despite the tragic historical loss, however, much of the cathedral was saved, including the towers, rose windows, and many of its priceless works of art. As the smoke cleared, architects and historians soon began to discuss how to rebuild Notre Dame to its former glory, which has proved to be a more difficult question than some may think.

If you’re interested in becoming an architectural technician, read on to find out what the future may hold for the architectural design of the new Notre Dame.

Architectural Technicians Know that Restoration Comes Before Rebuilding

For many, the initial question immediately after the fire was: what’s the next step? Notre Dame had already been undergoing massive conservation and restoration work prior to the fire. In the 19th century, restorers Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus had replaced portions of the walls and flying buttresses—and also added a new spire—but the stone they used was degrading at a faster rate than the original material from the 12th century, so contemporary restorers were called in to try and prevent further degradation.

Essentially, the problem at the heart of the issue is how to conduct twin restoration projects at once. The first step, as students in architectural design courses might guess, is to rebuild the roof in order to protect the Gothic vaults and interior of the building from the elements. The nature of restorative work, however, runs the risk of damaging or overlooking the historical value of the original architecture of Notre Dame in favor of new additions or styles, which complicates the idea of what its final aesthetic will be.

3D Technology May Be the Key to Recovering an Architectural Masterpiece

One of the more comforting notions about the rebuilding of Notre Dame is that it is perhaps one of the most visually documented architectural structures in the world, which gives architectural teams plenty of data to work with during the rebuilding efforts.

Students at Digital School can use their training to stay updated on the latest architectural technology
Students at Digital School can use their training to stay updated on the latest architectural technology

New developments in architectural technology, such as digital 3D rendering, allows architectural teams to get more hands-on with their projects. Notre Dame has even been scanned with lasers in the last few years, with its interior and exterior meticulously captured in 3D point clouds. Along with BIM technology like Revit—which students become familiar with during architectural design technology training—architectural teams can connect in a more meaningful way to the designs they create, which leads to a more comprehensive plan for the rebuilding of Notre Dame.

The Question of the Spire Is a Conundrum for Both Architectural Teams and Historians

The famous spire of Notre Dame was unfortunately lost in the fire. However, rebuilding it is proving to be tricky. The original spire was constructed in the 13th century, and stood for five centuries until it was removed in 1786. As part of the 19th century restoration efforts by Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc, a new spire was made of lead and wood. This move proved to be fairly controversial—as many restoration projects are—because adding a new, contemporary architectural element challenged the inherent historical value of the building.

For an architectural technician today, the question is to rebuild the spire according to the design before the fire—which, in fact, is not how the first spire looked in the 13th century—or to rebuild it with something more modern in mind. Reconstruction isn’t estimated to be completed until 2024, so there are slim chances of a decision being made any time soon.

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2019-05-16T18:07:54+00:00