This article appeared in the April 18, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Looking to the future, nodding to the past. The Notre Dame challenge

Christophe Ena/AP
Nearly $1 billion has already poured in from around the world to restore Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a massive fire. But first France must decide how to restore its beloved cathedral.

How freely should we innovate when we are restoring historic buildings?

More precisely, should the future Notre Dame Cathedral, when it has been restored after this week’s fire, look exactly like the old one?

That is the debate French Premier Édouard Philippe launched on Wednesday when he announced an international competition to design a new skyline for the now roofless cathedral.

The contest “will allow us to ask the question whether we should even re-create the spire as it was conceived” by Eugène Viollet le Duc, the 19th-century architect who designed and built the über-iconic steeple that collapsed in flames on Monday, Mr. Philippe said.

Or should a new one contribute something novel, and extend the cathedral’s 850-year history of continuous evolution?

Paris is no stranger to such debates. When the Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei dared to build a glass pyramid in the stately courtyard of the Louvre, many Parisians were scandalized. Today, 30 years later, that pyramid is one of the city’s favorite and most famous landmarks.

Notre Dame’s slender Gothic Revival spire, whose 300-foot reach for the sky lightened the cathedral’s massive bulk, may not rise again in its old form. But it has left one trace. On Wednesday, somebody found the copper rooster that used to sit at the spire’s very tip – battered but apparently restorable.

Perhaps Mr. Viollet le Duc still has something to contribute to this debate.

Now onto our five stories for today.

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This article appeared in the April 18, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 04/18 edition