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Notre Dame Work Resumes Post Pandemic Pause

Friday, May 29, 2020

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Restoration work has resumed and COVID-19 protocols have been put in place at the Notre Dame Cathedral site. Although officials are still standing by the initial time frame, a decision on the structure’s spire remains stagnant.

Incident Background

On the evening of April 15, 2019, flames engulfed the more than 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral, destroying the spire and nearly two-thirds of the roof.

With the help of about 500 firefighters battling the blaze, the fire was brought under control by the early hours of Tuesday morning, five hours after the outbreak. Officials stated that no fatalities took place during the incident, and only one firefighter was reported to have experienced serious injuries.

There were no initial reports about what had caused the blaze, though police said at the time that it appeared to be accidental and that the cause could be linked to the ongoing 6-million-euro ($6.8 million) renovations. Since then, though, investigators have said they believe an electrical short-circuit is the culprit.

City and national officials have since been criticized for failing to fully disclose the risk of contamination as a result of 440 tons of lead roofing that had burned in the fire, which consequently sent clouds of lead particles into the air. Work was suspended for weeks over the summer, while the surrounding area underwent lead testing.

GodefroyParis, CC-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Restoration work has resumed and COVID-19 protocols have been put in place at the Notre Dame Cathedral site. Although officials are still standing by the initial time frame, a decision on the structure’s spire remains stagnant.

On Aug. 13, maintenance and clean-up practices commenced in Notre Dame’s 100,000-square-foot enclosed plaza and on surrounding streets.

The process involved vacuuming, scrubbing and rinsing the pavement and various surfaces using a highly pressurized water mixer combined with a special particle compound used to remove lead. The wastewater was then recovered.

On more dense surfaces like granite, workers use a special gel to coat the contaminated surface, which is left to dry for several days and is then removed, pulling out any lead particles that have become embedded in the stone.

Although environmental associations, labor unions and other groups agree that cleanup procedures should have begun months ago, new decontamination measures have been established for workers at the cathedral. Through the use of foot baths, showers and wearing of disposable uniforms, workers are both more protected and less likely to spread toxic particles outside of the plaza. Strict check-ins and check-outs were also employed.

Restoration

President Emmanuel Macron has specified that he wants the monument to be rebuilt in five years, in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics, slated to be held in Paris. To aid this goal, digital 3D scans taken by the late Andrew Tallon of New York’s Vassar College in 2015 are believed to provide the necessary information for fast-track construction.

However, before restoration efforts can begin, the melted scaffolding needs to be taken down—piece by piece.

If the scaffolding were to fall or collapse, is could reportedly put other parts of the building in jeopardy, so workers will have to first build a structure above the scaffolding that will allow them to rappel down.

Officials began taking down the 50,000 metal tubes that make up the lattice in October. While they’re dismantling the lattice, they are also installing planks above and below the cathedral’s ceiling for closer examination.

At the beginning of the year, the ultimate fate of the structure was still unknown.

In mid-March, the process was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however French general Jean-Louis Georgelin, who is heading up the 40-person committee that is overseeing the restoration, told The Guardian at the time that the unexpected pauses in work should not impact the five-year deadline.

Delays included specialist artisan builders being sent home as France went on lockdown, as well work being stopped before it began on the removal of the damaged scaffolding.

Georgelin had also noted that monitoring equipment attached to different parts of the structure indicated that there has been no movement in the last year.

At the end of April, the site was retrofitted for the virus, which included rearranging showers and cloakrooms as well as installing a place to eat. In addition, most workers are now staying at vacant hotels in order to not use public transportation.

The main priority is reportedly still dismantling the 250 tons of scaffolding.

The Spire

In May of last year, the French Senate has passed a bill that would require the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral to be rebuilt to its “last known visual state,” a move that pushes back against proposed innovation for the structure.

The measure was added to a bill that was passed by the National Assembly that focused on the expeditated timeline of the proposed reconstruction.

The legislation was in response to more creative suggestions for design. In fact, taking matters into its own hands, GoArchitect decided to launch a people’s competition, created as a chance for architects all over the world to submit designs “for the people” versus being decided by big-name firms and closed-door meetings.

The competition received 226 entries from 56 countries. The winners were chosen that August by the public with more than 30,000 votes.

In addition to that unofficial competition, several more official ideas were revealed including: Italian architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas proposed a contemporary roof and spire made from Baccarat crystals that would be lit up every evening; French designer Mathieu Lehanneur proposed a golden, fire-like structure; Bratislava-based Vizumatelier proposed a lightweight tower that would shine a beam of light directly upward; Cyprus collaborative architectural studio Kiss The Architect suggested various arches and balls wrapped around a central staircase-type spire; and Paris-based architects Studio NAB have submitted a design proposing a greenhouse and educational apiary to sit upon the damaged landmark.

Days after the fire, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced plans to launch an architectural competition for the spire, but details never materialized.

The decision on the spire is still up in the air as the National Commission for Architecture and Heritage isn’t expected to suggest a design to the Ministry of Culture until later this year.

   

Tagged categories: Churches; COVID-19; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Fire; Health and safety; Maintenance + Renovation; Ongoing projects; Renovation; Safety

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