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Global call to design new Notre-Dame spire

Global call to design new Notre-Dame spire
A fire fighter makes his way on a balcony of Notre Dame cathedral Wednesday, April 17, 2019 in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron ratcheted up the pressure by setting a five-year deadline to restore the 12th-century landmark. (AP)
Paris, Apr 17 (Agencies/IANS) | Publish Date: 4/17/2019 12:11:00 PM IST

France is to invite architects from around the world to submit their designs for a new spire to sit atop a renovated Notre-Dame cathedral.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told reporters they hoped for “a new spire that is adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era”.

The spire was completely destroyed in the blaze that tore through the 850-year-old Gothic building’s roof. The entire cathedral was minutes away from total destruction, officials say.

However, much of the Parisian building - including its famed towers - survived, and thoughts have now turned to how to reconstruct what has been lost.

President Emmanuel Macron vowed it will be rebuilt “even more beautifully”, adding that he wants the work done within five years - although experts warn its reconstruction could take decades. The spire destroyed in the blaze was added to the cathedral during a 19th Century restoration project led by French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. But Mr Philippe questioned “whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc... or if, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre-Dame with a new spire”. A combined €800m ($902m; £692m) has already been pledged by a number of companies and business tycoons to help rebuild the Unesco World Heritage site.

Mr Philippe promised “every euro paid for the construction of Notre-Dame will serve this purpose and nothing else”, while also announcing a tax reduction for those donating towards the reconstruction.

The cause of the fire is unknown but an investigation is under way.

No French trees big enough to rebuild Notre Dame roof 

France no longer has trees big enough to replace the ancient wooden beams that burned in the massive Notre Dame fire, according to a French cultural heritage expert.

Bertrand de Feydeau, Vice President of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told France Info radio that the wooden roof that was ravaged in the blaze was made with oak beams more than 800 years ago from primal forests.

The oak beams were added to the cathedral in 1220. Because of the building’s gothic style which called for high vaulted ceilings, tall, sturdy oaks were sourced from nearby forests.

De Feydeau said the cathedral’s roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire. “It is a framework that is not rebuildable,” he said, adding “we no longer have trees of our size on our territory that were cut in the 13th century and were what we call the primary forest”.

The expert was cited as saying by France Info radio that the restoration work will have to use new technologies to rebuild the roof “that will leave the appearance of the cathedral as we love it”.

Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, rector of the cathedral, told CNN that the church’s medieval roof structure, mostly made of oak, “has been lost”.

Meanwhile, David Elstone, Executive Director of British Columbia-based Truck Loggers Association, said his province would not have suitable oak, but if architects required soft wood timber, Canada could help.

“We probably have a tree that would suit the needs of the architects that are trying to rebuild Notre Dame. “We grow large strong trees that you cannot find in other areas,” he said.

According to a study published last year, only four per cent of Europe’s remaining woodland is primary forest, with none larger than 500 square kilometers outside of Russia or Northern Europe.

A combined 800 million euros have already been pledged by a number of companies and business tycoons to help rebuild the Unesco World Heritage site.

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