Exit the “contemporary architectural gesture” envisaged for a time to rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris: fifteen months after the fire that ravaged the cathedral and moved the whole world, President Macron finally opted to rebuild the Gothic jewel identically.
He “acquired the conviction” that the cathedral must be restored to its original identity, said the Elysée on Thursday evening, after a meeting of the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture (CNPA), bringing together elected officials, experts and site architects.
“The president trusted the experts and pre-approved the main lines of the project presented by the chief architect (Philippe Villeneuve), which plans to rebuild the spire identically,” said the Elysée.
This project globally proposes a restoration of the cathedral and its spire in the manner closest to its state just before the fire that occurred on the evening of April 15, 2019.
To everyone’s surprise, the head of state had mentioned, shortly after the fire, the possibility of “a contemporary architectural gesture” to rebuild the cathedral, stimulating the imagination of many great architects. Some had proposed a glass spire, the creation on the roof of an organic garden park or a panoramic terrace …
Pass of arms
The architect Philippe Villeneuve has always pleaded loyalty to the work retouched in the Gothic style by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, of which all the plans are kept. And to argue that such an option makes it possible to better meet the deadlines for a reconstruction in five years, as wanted by President Macron.
A clear opinion which gave rise to an unusual pass of arms at the end of 2019 with General Georgelin, appointed to supervise the site: the latter had asked the chief architect to “close his mouth”, after taking a position against a contemporary arrow.
Thursday, Mr. Villeneuve presented a file 3,000 pages to review the methods he recommends to restore the frame, the roof and the spire of the cathedral, most thorny subjects having caused a quarrel between old and modern.
At the end of this meeting which lasted four hours, the CNPA “unanimously approved the proposed restoration party consisting in restoring the architecture of Viollet-le-Duc, with regard to the covering and the spire in respect original materials, “Jean-Pierre Leleux, senator at the head of this commission, told AFP.
Concerning the frame, on which there was debate, an upcoming study will specify exactly the contours of its reconstruction which will be made of wood.
Before reaching this decision, all scenarios were considered, he said, including leaving the cathedral in its current state.
“The concern for the president was not to delay the site nor to make the file more complex. Things had to be clarified quickly, ”explained the Elysée for its part.
“If it had been necessary to make a contemporary spire, it required a specific assistance, hence a potential delay of the site. The consultations with great architects led to say that this bet of the contemporary spire was very complicated and that a contemporary gesture could be imagined otherwise, “argued the Presidency.
The Elysée thus wishes to work with the City of Paris for the redevelopment of the surroundings of the monument. “If there is a contemporary gesture, it can be there”, according to the presidency, which also recalls the project of an ephemeral structure, a “building site museum” which could be installed in the courtyard of the Hôtel-Dieu , near the cathedral.
Postponed due to confinement, the delicate dismantling of the scaffolding that surrounds Notre-Dame, deformed and welded by the heat of the fire, will be completed “by the end of September at the latest”, assured General Georgelin a week ago . This dismantling conditions the possibility of starting the actual restoration of Notre-Dame.
The president is still planning a reconstruction in five years with a reopening in 2024.