We can rebuild it — more beautiful than before

In central Paris, modern architecture is vandalism; in the suburbs, it is hell

Dalrymple writes that the French president’s speech about the Notre-Dame fire

contained a terrible threat: he said that the cathedral would be rebuilt to be even more beautiful than before.

And the French prime minister announced that a competition would be held to design ‘a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time’. This, says Dalrymple,

should send a chill down the spine of anyone familiar with the efforts of modern architects in Paris, the effects of which can be seen all around the city.

The monumental public buildings constructed using techniques to meet the challenges of our time include

  • the Centre Pompidou
  • the Tour Montparnasse
  • the Opéra Bastille
  • the Musée du quai Branly
  • the new Philharmonie

Each one of these structures would, says Dalrymple,

gain at least an honorable mention in a competition for ugliest building in the world.

The Bibliothèque nationale de France, too, was largely rehoused using the techniques of our time, which

included failure to notice that the damp caused by a low water table and sun shining directly through walls of glass were not very good for 15th-century books.

Dalrymple notes that the post-Second-World-War vernacular, with its curtain walls and ribbon windows, is

universally depressing, a single one of its buildings being able to ruin the harmony of an entire street.

In view of

the narcissism of modern architects, particularly of the star variety, when called upon to make additions to older buildings,

a strict restoration of Notre-Dame would be safer.

There should be no competition, except among craftsmen and those who can suggest new ways to make old appearances.

Macron said that he wanted the cathedral restored within five years—in time for the opening of the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Dalrymple comments:

It would be hard to think of a more kitsch idea in the Soviet tradition than this.

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