Traditional vs. contemporary rebuild of iconic landmarks?

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On April 15, 2019, the infamous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire. Luckily, after a long night, the cathedral, minus the roof made of trees that dated back as far as 1160, was saved, but because there was extensive damage, French president Emmanuel Macron is looking for design ideas to rebuild the beautiful cathedral and I decided to read this article about an issue that I hadn’t previously considered. Obviously, the cathedral needs to be rebuilt, but the author revealed the more complicated problem concerning whether it should be rebuilt exactly as it was, or using a more contemporary design, an idea which has been precedented by building such as the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and the parliament building in Berlin (images below). I enjoyed reading this article, brief as it was, because it gave me a base understanding of both sides of the argument using well thought out quotes such as ““The ability to find around 3,000 more big, strong trees in the next two decades is going to be tricky,” medieval historian Dr. Emily Guerry told CBC News, adding that the Baltic might have enough suitable oak trees…
I also thought it was clever how the author related the issue described in the article to “The Ship of Theseus” and that it was a good base source of information because the author never stated his opinion and so it is non-biased. I would have enjoyed it if the article was longer and included some examples of proposed designs, as it seemed well researched and well written. I did some further research, and am not entirely sure where I stand on the issue. I don’t think it is a good idea to rebuild it exactly as it was, because the reality is it will be difficult (not to mention extremely expensive and bad for the environment) to obtain all the necessary materials, and they do have the opportunity to create something spectacular. I am not sure however to what extent they should “modernize” the structure. I’ve included some images of rough drafts for designs that might be considered, and I am interested to see what comes of the reconstruction of this iconic landmark.

(Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg)

(parliament building in Berlin)


Chapman, Rob, et al. “17 Artists Suggest Notre Dame Cathedral Reconstruction Designs.” Bored Panda,
(photo source)