Less than a week after Notre Dame Cathedral's massive fire, which authorities are still investigating yet claim is a most likely nothing but a tragic accident, the French government announced an international competition to rebuild the cathedral's historic roofline and spire.
This may mean big changes to the structure and design of the building are to come.
As with most cathedrals, Notre Dame's initial construction took place over multiple centuries and has gradually been modified over its more than 800-year history. Its famous flying buttresses were added more than a century after its initial completion. During the French Revolution in the 1790s, many of its icons were desecrated—then, after the publication of Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, there was a massive resurgence in support for the building by the French citizenry. In turn, the French government, which owns the building, issued a massive restoration project that included the installation of the most recent spire which fell in last week's inferno.
In the announcement for the competition, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe called for "a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time," and French President Emmanuel Macron promised the restoration efforts would ensure Notre Dame would be "more beautiful than before," The Guardian has reported.
Initial reactions from to early-entry competitors to reconstruct the spire has been mixed. The Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, known for his Gothic-inspired tower structures, has promised to enter the competition and hinted toward a proposal that includes a spire "adapted to contemporary techniques and interpretations." The proposal has been met with some trepidation by French traditionalists calling for Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc's 93-meter-tall, 19th-century original design to be recreated in full.
Still, Phillipe's announcement of the competition included a statement saying the contest "will allow us to ask the question of whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc," indicating the government is open to new, modern interpretations for what will certainly be a historic restoration of France's most beloved piece of architecture.