With leading academics and professionals in architecture generally being hostile to building or restoring anything in styles predating the infamous Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) and the Bauhaus school, they were quick to pounce when President Emmanuel Macron’s prime minister announced there would be a competition to “ask the question of whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by… Or if, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre-Dame with a new spire”.
The Telegraph published an article claiming it would be a “travesty” to restore Notre Dame as it was just a day after the fire, while Rolling Stone quoted a Harvard architecture historian as saying that the burning of a building “so overburdened with meaning… feels like an act of liberation.”
Now proposals for a new spire are beginning to come together, and leading architects do indeed appear to be pushing for a “contemporary” spire in the ubiquitous glass and steel style used for modern buildings all over the world.
Lord Norman Foster, arguably Britain’s most famous modern architect, has unveiled a design topping the ancient cathedral with a glass and steel canopy with a featureless glass and steel spire, which he described as “a work of art about light” which would be “contemporary and very spiritual and capture the confident spirit of the time” in comments to The Times.
Ian Ritchie, a modern architect most famous for the so-called Spire of Dublin — a metal spike erected in the Irish capital — is mulling a proposal along similar lines, which he describes as “a refracting, super-slender reflecting crystal to heaven” or a beautiful contemporary tracery of glass crystals and stainless steel” — i.e. a featureless glass and steel spire.
Perhaps most controversial is a proposal in Domus, the architecture magazine, by Tom Wilkinson, for the fallen spire to be replaced with an Islamic minaret, to memorialise Algerians who protested the French government in the 1960s.