10th July 2022
Plans revealed recently for the redesign for the area around Notre Dame Cathedral seek to combine awareness of the site’s historical significance with the need to make it more contemporary.
On April 15th, 2019, the eyes of the world were glued to the dramatic images of a fire at Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Cathedral, a blaze that ravaged the 850-year-old landmark.
Three years later, work is well under way on restoration of the cathedral. It is an enormous undertaking, with over €165 million already spent on the initial ‘consolidation’ stage of the project alone. While it is hoped that the cathedral will be open to worshippers and visitors again in 2024, in time for the Olympics in Paris, experts consider full restoration will take at least 10 years to complete.
Meanwhile, plans for renovating the area around the cathedral, including the forecourt, the underground parking area and the space behind the building, are also taking shape.
It was announced recently that a panel has selected the design proposed by Belgian landscape artist Bas Smets and his team for a new vision of the cathedral’s surroundings.
Key parameters set out for the redesign included preserving the historical and architectural identity of the site, ensuring an improved experience for the 12 million annual visitors, increasing biodiversity in the area and rendering the location more welcoming. People will be able to enter the cathedral through its grand central doors rather than the side entrance as was previously the case.
Smets’ winning design keeps the forecourt open to highlight the magnificent façade of the cathedral, while using increased tree coverage to provide more shady spots to sit around the edge of this open area. On particularly hot days a small stream of running water has been designed to keep this potential ‘heat trap’ cool.
What was formerly an underground car park will be adapted into an underground walkway to allow for more visitor reception points, easier access to the cathedral’s archaeological crypt, new viewpoints of Notre Dame itself and an opening on to bank of the Seine where there will be a riverside park.
Meanwhile, the area behind the cathedral, which, although tree-lined, is currently divided by hedges and fences will be incorporated into a 400-meter-long park area complete with a large lawn and increased greenery.
Overall, the project will see a 36% increase in vegetation in the area around Notre Dame, including the planting of 131 new trees.
Landscape architect Bas Smets comments that, “Notre Dame has witnessed the transformation of the city for over 800 years, and rethinking its surroundings means asking questions about the kinds of spaces we want for the city of tomorrow.”
Set to cost €15 million, the project will be entirely financed by the City of Paris. The exact timeline for its completion will depend on the progression of construction on the cathedral building. However, as things currently stand, work is expected to begin towards the end of 2024 and to continue until 2027.