Gensler’s Temporary Structure for Notre-Dame

After a dramatic April 15 fire ravaged the 850-year old gothic cathedral in Paris French president Emmanuel Macron has a five-year plan to restore the landmark but heritage experts say it could take up to 20 years before the beloved Catholic cathedral can safely reopen its doors to the public again. In the meantime, bishop Notre-Dame’s, expressed a wish to erect a temporary structure for parishioners and to welcome the 13 million visitors who trek to see the historic medieval structure each year.

London – International architecture and design firm, Gensler, has unveiled a striking design for a temporary place of worship at Notre-Dame. Set to be located in the cathedral’s iconic Parvis Square, the Pavilion Notre-Dame is intended to offer a beacon of hope to Parisians and international visitors alike, whilst the 850-year-old cathedral is being restored.

Gensler hasn’t submitted the design in the form of a competition, but rather offered it as a gift to the city of Paris. While the Pavilion Notre-Dame would be used for mass services—much like the church it’s meant to temporarily replace—the makeshift space has multiple purposes. It was important for the structure to primarily act as a place of worship, and it mirrors the configuration of Notre Dame for mass services for up to 800 people, and also to reflect in design what cathedrals were always intended to do—bring people together and support the entire community.

Gensler has been careful to pay homage to Notre-Dame by creating a humble space which provides a critical hub for the community to gather while the cathedral is being restored.

Gensler’s design offers a modest yet emblematic temporary structure constructed primarily out of charred timber providing the structure with added strength and durability. “Charred timber, which is one of the oldest and most effective methods of protecting wood from fire, also symbolizes that what once destroyed Notre-Dame will only serve to make it stronger thus expressing a language of rebirth and transformation,” says Duncan Swinhoe, Regional Managing Principal at Gensler.

The timber, which has been locally procured from certified renewable sources, will be charred and added throughout. Functioning as a sheltered nave, the temporary structure is reminiscent of the structural rhythms and forms of the Gothic cathedral. With a roof constructed out of ETFE cushions and walls made up of translucent polycarbonate, the temporary structure will be flooded with natural light, emphasizing the ethereal quality of the space whilst creating visual relief. Behind the altar, movable panels will be installed that will allow for a full view of Notre-Dame. Gensler’s design also includes rotating panels at ground level that can be positioned to open or close the edge of the structure to mirror the configuration of the cathedral for mass services or be moved to seamlessly open up the space for performances or as a marketplace.

The space allows for up to 800 guests for a mass service. Mimicking the traditional orientation of a church, it’s set up so that visitors enter through the west end, with the cross on the east end.

Replicated to the same dimensions as Notre-Dame to ensure familiarity, the temporary space has been designed to serve a multitude of functions, from religious services to exhibitions and markets to performance. Outside of a traditional space for mass, the structure will also serve the greater community with food stalls, temporary exhibitions, and public performances throughout the year.

If approved by Macron, the Pavilion Notre-Dame will be available to Parisians and the community at large for as many years are required for the church’s restoration.

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