ARCHITECTURE: Noisy Profanity at Notre-Dame

PHOTOGRAPHY: Patrick Yap & Lin Ho
May 30, 2019
EXHIBITIONS: Tse Su-Mei’s ‘Nested’
May 9, 2019

Noisy Profanity at Notre Dame 

  • Published 29 May 2019 

The grandest icon of sacred Gothic architecture is about to be ravaged by twenty-first century depthlessness and unfetted modern-day propensity toward self propagation. It would have been different if not for the sacredness of the building and that the building had taken two hundred years of sacrifice and toil of ordinary people to build. The building is equally a memory and personification of the spirit of a bygone era. To do anything else other than to reinstate the architectural masterpiece is like repainting Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ or ‘Last Supper’ in a different style, when what was needed was proper reverential restoration.

On April 15, the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral caught fire that lasted for 15 hours with most of the roof destroyed together with the iconic spire. Taking cues from early twentieth century misplaced heroism, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that the government was looking for “a fresh look adapted to the techniques and challenges of our era”. Very quickly architects and designers were jumping into the band wagon with what they thought were their ‘ingenious’ contributions and so-called creativity. Sacré bleau – such profanity!

The original building was finely balanced with the flying buttresses at the side of the building carrying just enough of the original weight and roof, reaching a height not achieved before the 12th century when the main building was completed.The proposals for weighty spires made no sense and the underweight glass roofs are purely decorative. Everything that is proposed other than complete restoration is purely subjective, mere aestheticism or worse: the green house, the swimming pool, the penthouse, the car park are just bad jokes. The rocket with its own scaffolding is undeserving of words.

Least it be forgotten, Notre-Dame is a sacred and religious building; not a humanist building. It is a masterpiece, and the intentions of the original builders ought to be revered; not to be dismissed or be an object of profanity.