Notre Dame: Designing Version 2.0


After the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced a design competition that “will allow us to ask the question of whether we should even recreate the spire as it was [originally] conceived.” Dozens of proposals have already been submitted. The following are a few:

  • Vincent Callebaut Architectures (Paris) presented “A Gothic and Biomimetic Forest for the Cathedral“ and said,“the project features a garden devoted to contemplation and meditation … up to 21 tons of fruits and vegetables could be harvested and directly redistributed for free each year

  • "the contemporary, three-dimensional Gothic stained glass graft produces all the electricity, heat and passive ventilation that the cathedral might require, by combining passive systems and advanced renewable energies.“

  • Studio NAB (Paris) said, "Protecting the living, reintroducing biodiversity, educating consciences and being social, are all symbols, faithful to the values of France and those of the church” and proposed replacing the roof with a greenhouse and bee-hives.

  • Studio Drift  (Amsterdam) said“Let the Notre Dame become a monument of the future instead of the past” and recommends rebuilding the roof using plastic recycled from the ocean.

  • Ulf Mejergren Architects (Stockholm) proposed a cross-shaped pool covering the entire roof area with statues of the 12 apostles. It would provide “a meditative public space; a complementary spatial experience to the building with unmatched views over Paris. "

  • Studio Fuksas (Rome) proposed a contemporary roof and spire made from Baccarat crystal, which would light up at night and “will be a beacon of hope for the future in the night of Paris.”


  • It is notable that several proposals incorporate sustainable approaches into their designs.

  • As the design selection process evaluates approaches ranging from the traditional/nostalgic to the to avant-garde, a modern plan could inspire innovation in other architectural projects. (A recent poll said 54% of French adults want to restore the original design, 25% want a modern approach and 21% did not have an opinion.)

  • Regarding funding: As pledges exceed $700 million (some estimates suggest over $1 billion), concerns about funds diverted from other causes should be considered.

  • Regarding time to complete: Contributing factors include length of the selection process, design complexity, and project delays. It is likely the project will take between 10 and 20 years.

Paul Dravis