Architectural Engineering program, The University of Texas at Austin

Notre Dame fire, Paris

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What a shock to see the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris ablaze yesterday.

My immediate concerns were for the safety of anyone within and to the question of what caused the fire and how much can be saved.  What a battle it must have been for the firefighters and police – a few of which I understand were injured.

My last visit to the building was 10 years ago with my wife – on a beautiful early Summer day.  After our visit I sat and sketched the view of Ile de la Cite with the cathedral spire rising in the background.   I have always felt that Notre Dame is the emotional heart of the city for many of us as visitors to this beautiful city.  My thoughts go out to everyone in Paris and today, one day later, I am hearing of a tremendous outpouring of donations from many people who are giving to help rebuild after the fire.

Of course the rebuilding will need to be thoughtful.  The stone seems to have survived. Built between 1100’s – 1300’s, the stone makes up much of the buildings walls and some vaulted ceilings – I’ve read that it is almost completely intact.  As a professor teaching architecture and engineering concepts, I know that a fire of this magnitude and the water used to put out the fire will have caused much superficial damage in addition to the loss of the timber roof frame and spire.  Fortunately, the church was renovated in the early 1800’s and it sounds like the drawings from that project may be very helpful to inform the rebuilding process.  I would expect that expert forensic engineers will be enlisted to see if the remaining stone structure is stable and can be relied upon.  The rebuilding will likely be slow and cautious with great care.

As with any tragedy or setback, I am sure there are things to learn in order to prevent this from happening again.   I wish the city of Paris a full recovery and look forward to sitting again in the sunshine near Notre Dame to admire this great building.

Gregory Brooks
Assoc. Professor of Practice, UT-Austin Architectural Engineering program
Partner, BMH Design Studio

Written by Gregory Brooks

April 16, 2019 at 7:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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