France Starts Contest to Redesign the Notre Dame Cathedral

Category: Lifestyle/Entertainment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. ravage / ˈræv ɪdʒ / (v) – to destroy

    The fire ravaged the family’s house.

  2. spire / spaɪər / (n) – a tall and narrow structure on top of a building

    The church is known for its 128-meter spire.

  3. give (someone’s) word / gɪv wɜrd / (idiom) – to promise something to someone

    He gave his word to repay his debt.

  4. stand out / stænd aʊt / (phrasal) – to be different from others

    Their house stood out from all the other houses in the neighborhood because of its yellow color.

  5. adamant / ˈæd ə mənt / (adj) – unwilling to change opinion

    The committee remained adamant that the policy should not change.


Read the text below.

The French government announced a global competition for architects to propose designs for the damaged Notre Dame Cathedral.

In April, a huge fire ravaged the roof and spire of the 850-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site. French President Emmanuel Macron [mahCRON] gave his word that the cathedral would be rebuilt by 2024, when Paris hosts the Summer Olympics.

Following Macron’s promise, France’s Prime Minister invited architects to send in their designs for the reconstruction of the Notre Dame. Since then, many proposals have poured in from around the world.

One design that stood out was from award-winning architect Vincent Callebaut [kuhll-BOO]. His design re-imagines the cathedral roof and spire into solar-powered glass. The glass can absorb light and transform it into electricity, making it possible for the cathedral to produce even more energy than it needs.

Another noteworthy design was from Brazil-based architect Alexandre Fantozzi. In his design, the roof and spire are made of stained glass, a feature also present in other parts of the cathedral. At night, lights will brighten up the stained glass and emphasize its color.

Despite the promising designs, some people, including the director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre, were adamant about redesigning the cathedral. Since the Notre Dame is an important part of France’s history and culture, they want the structure to be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire.

However, reconstructing the cathedral to its original structure proves to be a challenge.  Due to diminishing forests, France currently lacks tall oak trees, which were the original materials used in the roof of the Notre Dame.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think that the Notre Dame Cathedral should be redesigned, or should it be rebuilt exactly as it was before? Discuss.
• Do you think it was a good idea for the French government to open a global design competition for the damaged Notre Dame Cathedral? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• What is an old building in your country that you would like to redesign? Explain your answer.
• How would you redesign it?