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2 Chinese in US win Notre Dame redesign contest

By LIN QI | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-08-08 09:46

Three highlights of the design Paris Heart Beat. [Photo/designnotredame.com]

Architects' idea features a spire with multiple mirrors and a crystal roof

Although the French Parliament voted to restore the Notre Dame Cathedral which was ravaged by a fire in April, designers from across the world have been chipping in with their ideas to give the 12th-century monument a modern look.

Two US-based Chinese architects have drawn attention to their redesign idea, called "Paris Heartbeat", which features a multi-mirror spire and a crystal roof.

The prize-winning design was submitted by Cai Zeyu, who hails from Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, and his partner, Beijing-born Li Sibei.

A total of 226 designs, including those from the duo, were received for The People's Notre-Dame Cathedral Design Competition, which was organized by GoArchitect, a California-based independent publishing company.

The Chinese pair's design was declared winner earlier this week through a poll conducted online, having secured the maximum number of votes.

They will receive a grand prize of $1,000, according to the company's website.

Both Cai and Li work in Chicago for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, an US architectural, urban planning, and engineering firm.

Cai told GoArchitect that they came up with the idea of a glass roof for the Cathedral to reflect the surrounding urban environment and a spire made from multiple mirrors.

He said the spire's tip will be designed as "a time capsule to reflect history".

He said the remaining part of the spire will be constructed as a kaleidoscope and together with the tip, their inside reflection will complement the Cathedral's iconic rose window.

Cai, who studied architecture at Tsinghua University and Cornell University, told GoArchitect that they both had visited Notre Dame and were impressed by "the grandness, beauty and the peaceful atmosphere" created by its architectural legacy.

Cai said they took part in the competition because "visualization of Notre Dame through architectural language is the best way to show our great respect for the past of Notre Dame and best wishes to its future".

The massive fire that tore through the historical building melted its landmark roof and spire.

After the tragedy, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an international design contest to make Notre Dame "more beautiful than before".

The restoration plans have since sparked widespread debate on whether to return the nearly destroyed masterpiece to its classical appearance or to give it a modern look.

The Art Newspaper reported that a government restoration law passed by the French Parliament in July states that Notre Dame should be restored to how it was before the fire.

In its statement to launch the competition, GoArchitect said the future of Notre Dame should not be left to the big companies or closed-door meetings.

It said Notre Dame was "a cathedral for the people and its future should be influenced by the people", and the competition is to "demonstrate to the decision-makers that designers from all of the world deserve a chance".

Du Xiaoying in London contributed to this story.

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