Courtesy of Gensler
- The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris fell victim to a devastating fire in April that destroyed its roof and 19th-century spire.
- The church is currently being renovated, but it could take another five years before visitors are allowed to enter.
- In the meantime, global architecture firm Gensler has put forward an idea for a pop-up worship center outside the building.
- The temporary center would be made of charred timber, a material with fire-resistant properties.
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In April 2019, the roof of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris went up in flames, bringing the entire building to the brink of collapse. Though firefighters managed to salvage the structure, the 19th-century spire that appeared in generations of films, postcards, and paintings was reduced to rubble.
The building is now undergoing extensive renovations, leaving one of the world’s most popular worship sites out of commission.
The global architecture firm Gensler aims to fix this problem by creating a pop-up center at the base of the church. The structure would be made of charred timber (a nod to the massive amount of wood that was burned inside the cathedral) and feature translucent panels that give a view of Notre Dame. Take a look.
The Notre Dame cathedral is the most visited monument in Paris. On April 26, 2019, a fire destroyed its roof and timber spire.
The cathedral dates back to 1345. It has survived multiple wars, including the French Revolution, where revolutionaries destroyed many of its statues and tore down its original spire.
The cathedral is now undergoing a five-year renovation process, which means it’s off-limits to worshippers.
Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS
A New York Times investigation revealed that the cathedral is lucky to be standing. If the flames had burned for much longer, the floors could have caved in and the church bells could have come crashing down, destroying objects in their wake.
In July, the chief architect overseeing the renovation told French media that the cathedral’s vaults could still collapse.
The global architecture firm Gensler has unveiled a concept for a pop-up worship center made of charred timber outside the cathedral.
Courtesy of Gensler
Shortly after the top of the cathedral was ravaged, the team at Gensler came together to design a temporary space for visitors.
The idea for the project came directly from the firm’s London office, according to Gensler co-CEO Diane Hoskins.
"There were poignant feelings of loss, thankfulness that it wasn’t lost entirely, and a recognition that there was going to be a period of time where the cathedral could not be occupied," she said.
The design is still in its infancy, but the team has already solicited input from Notre Dame’s rector, Bishop Patrick Chauvet, who suggested building the structure out of wood.
Gensler opted for charred timber, a material that’s renewable but sturdy. Charred timber also has fire-resistant properties, since the burned outside layer helps protect the wood from getting too hot.
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