Notre Dame Design Challenge: Honoring the Past, Present and Future
Forest fires are devastating to the acres they burn and can be viewed as national tragedies when they destroy centuries-old forests, parklands, homes or entire towns. However, they make way for new meaningful opportunities that may have never before been envisioned. Applying the same concept to the Notre Dame fire calamity of April 15th, 2019, new life is destined for the historical masterpiece. Although Notre Dame de Paris is no stranger to destruction and renovations, the recent fire took the life of the entire roof, spire and threatened the structural integrity of the iconic cathedral. As architects and designers, this event struck a personal chord in our hearts. All we could do was watch as we helplessly wondered what would become of such a sentimental and influential structure.
Inspired through creativity and a need to exercise our imaginations, we challenged the employees in our offices to submit their designs for a Notre Dame renovation and restoration challenge.
Aware that our designs will most likely never cross the desk of Emmanuel Macron, we were still inspired to see what our staff could create. With little constraints or direction in an effort not to limit creativity, we challenged everyone to submit their design for the Notre Dame reconstruction in any form they saw fit, from 3D models to hand sketches. Each submission we received took the challenge seriously, professionally and intrinsically. Keeping the designer’s name anonymous as to not sway any decisions made, our judges, made up of internal architectural designers, evaluated and discussed each design concept, selected a winner, and provided feedback for each entry.
Each entry tells a story. Based on developing a process, from start to finish, the designs were well thought through. Essential to creating a cohesive design that complements the existing structure, each person studied the architectural and historical timeline of the Cathedral. Evident within the entries, each one took into consideration the history of the building and how it got to be what it is today, the Gothic architectural use of natural light and windows, the imperative acoustics and the infamous religious staple of the church. Some strategically drew inspiration from nature, while others considered the social, community and environmental sustainability responsibility that architects hold.
The winning design by Ryan Craft tells the most intricate and compelling story speaking to the past, present and future ideas of the Notre Dame.
Winning design by Ryan Craft, click to enlarge.
As architects, from national monuments like Notre Dame, to our everyday projects, we have a responsibility in the designs we create. We hold the power to create sustainable design that can be appreciated for years to come. Incorporating biophilic elements in the compositions aids in creating a thoughtful and physical connection to nature for visitors, such as rebuilding the National Forest of Notre Dame, as suggested in Craft’s design. Each design also helps elevate and educate the original purpose of the structure to the community—an epochal place of worship carrying a rich religious history. Not only do inspirational, once-in-a-lifetime projects provoke our inner moral compass but the same theories are also threaded into our day to day work.
Creating thought leadership and thinking beyond the everyday realm of traditional architectural practice, the friendly competition of an internal design challenge allowed our staff the opportunity to challenge their design-thinking and presentation skills in ways that can translate into current and future projects. The process can be mirrored to make their work more meaningful and well-rounded coming from a holistic point of view. Channeling the idea of enriching lives through innovative design helps draw us back to the ethical and moral impact our projects create and the way architecture becomes part of the world around us, creating beauty from what was once a tragedy.