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August 5, 2019
HED architect Jennifer Cole, AIA, earns honorable mention in The People’s Notre Dame Design Competition
HED architect Jennifer Cole's Design for The People’s Notre Dame Competition receives Honorable Mention

In April 2019, a fire destroyed the roof and some of the interior of the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, toppling its spire. Soon after the fire was controlled, a contest was organized through GoArchitect to redesign the spire of the world heritage site. The competition organizers hope to spur on a meaningful conversation in the architecture world.

Collaborating from across the country with fellow architect Michael Snyder, AIA, of Gannett Fleming Architects, Inc. in State College, PA, Jennifer Cole, AIA, of HED’s San Diego office spent over two months designing a new spire, roof, ceiling and plaza sculpture to enter in the competition.

“If a new design for Notre Dame is to be undertaken, we believe it should be more than just aesthetically beautiful,” Cole said. “The design should be deeply meaningful on multiple levels and serve all of humanity.”

The final submission consists of a stainless-steel spire that aspires “to be majestic, but humble like Christ.” The team wondered, “how the design could not only revere the apostles and disciples, but also behave like one.” To do so, the team designed an interactive sculpture to engage with the people in the plaza below and provide acts of service at a global scale. While loaded with spiritual and biblical meaning, the design also pays respects to the nation of France and Notre Dame’s significance as a world heritage site, per the design description: “the Cathedral ceiling will be rebuilt to preserve the acoustics of the space and interior spatial quality as enhanced by the light of stained glass windows for the experience of future generations. The roof will be built to honor the language of the original roof but made new and more sustainable by integrating a system of wind turbines and invisible solar cells disguised at the roof ridge and at roof panels to generate electricity providing a more sustainable future for Paris.”

“We recognize the challenge of many who revere the craft, beauty and symbolism of the original Cathedral to precisely restore the original,” says Cole, “Though, we also honor an honesty about building and recognize the guidelines for conservation and restoration including the 1964 ‘Venice Charter,’ established by the International Council on Monuments and Sites which states, ‘The intention in conserving and restoring monuments is to safeguard them no less as works of art than as historical evidence… Replacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence.’”

Jennifer and Michael have been quick to mention that they are very thankful for the opportunity to share the concept and to be awarded an honorable mention. “This has been an amazing experience and partnership. We hope the dialog continues with the French Government and Catholic Church, and new chapter begins in sharing hope with the world.”
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