Thursday, March 5, 2020

'The day in question'

Notre-Dame de Paris fire, April 15-16, 2019.
Photo by Antoninnnnn, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
This Wordplay Meetup prompt stoked the following flames in my imagination:

The day in question is April 15...

...the day Abraham Lincoln's assassination impelled us to question the underrating of his legacy and the understaffing of presidential security...

...the day the sinking of the Titanic spurred us to question what caused the tragedy and how cruise ships could be made safer, but above all, to question the naïve mindset about her "unsinkability"...

...the day our tax return submissions prompt us to question how much we might save were last-minute filing not our bane...

...and the day the burning of Notre-Dame de Paris left us hanging with the question of just how she should be rebuilt. 

Notre-Dame de Paris in 2010. Photo by sacratomato_hr, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Should she be restored to her pre-incineration incarnation, if only to keep Quasimodo and Victor Hugo from turning in their graves? Or should she be resurrected according to present millennial sensibilities?

Such a question no doubt divides the Parisian public, who are just as drawn to radical modernism as to the Medieval Gothic of Our Lady. I mean, consider the colossi of contemporaneity that have space-aged the city's landscape over the past 40-odd years...

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1977, Renzo PianoRichard Rogers and Gianfranco
). Photo by Jeff & Brian from Eastbourne, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
...the exposed innards, guts and bones of La Centre Georges Pompidou modern art museum, for which Les Halles were sent to the slaughterhouse...

Louvre Pyramid, Paris (1989, I.M. Pei). Photo by Bilderteppich, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
...the geometric linearity of the late I.M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre, counterpointing the venerable museum's French Academic classicism with a crisp currency rooted in Egyptian mathematica...

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (1989-96, Dominique Perrault). Photo by Michaelstephaneboucher, courtesy Wiki.
...the behemoth "bookends" that symbolically comprise "La Très Grande Bibliothèque" de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the lofty legacy of the Mitterand administration...

Grand Écran Italie, Place d'Italie, Paris (1992, Kenzo Tange). Photo by David Monniaux, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
...that Grand Écran Italie cinematic contraption by Kenzo Tange that disrupted the historic fabric of La Place d'Italie with a space-station spectacle...

Eiffel Tower, Paris (1889, Gustave Eiffel). Photo by Benh Lieu Song, courtesy of Wiki.
...and, of course, the Eiffel Tower, so structurally advanced for its era (1889), with hyperbolic paraboloids that not even Baron Haussmann would dare tinker with when rebuilding Paris with his French Second Empire traditionalism (though he wasn't shy about taking the tower's symmetry to the streets).

Notre-Dame de Paris after the fire, courtesy of Tasnim News and Wikipedia.
Notre-Dame spire on fire. Photo by Guillaume Levrier, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Notre-Dame's bare skeleton, though, reveals how structurally clear the Gothic was. Flying buttresses and slender columns, tenets of modernism, bore the loads and resisted the flames as they devoured the medieval hammerbeams and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc's prized spire. Just as progressive for its time as the above examples of 19th- and 20th-century modernism were for theirs, Notre-Dame's Gothic structure should guide its resurrection, to do it justice, structurally and aesthetically.

Thank you for visiting. I welcome your comments!

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