04.26.2019

John Ochsendorf on the Key to Repairing Notre Dame

As money pours into France to repair the devastating damage to Notre Dame, John Ochsendorf, professor of architecture at MIT, discusses how the key to repairing one of France’s greatest landmarks may lie with laser technology, and 3D models of the cathedral made by the late art historian, Andrew Tallon.

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AND WHAT IS THE DIFFICULTY OF TRYING TO RECONSTRUCT, AND TRYING TO REPAIR SOMETHING OF THAT ANCIENT AGE.

WELL, THE FIRST THING THAT WE CAN SAY IS THAT IT IS SIMPLY NOT POSSIBLE.

WHAT IS LOST WITH THE ROOF PARTICULARLY THE MEDIEVAL ROOF, IF YOU ARE THINKING IT IS 800 YEARS OLD, IT WAS BUILT OF MORE THAN 1,000 ANCIENT OAK TREES THAT THEY HAVE CURED OF DECADES AND CENTURIES BEFORE BEING USED AND THE ANCIENT CRAFTSMANSHIP OF THAT BEING LOST FOREVER.

AND HOWEVER, WE CAN TRY TO REPLACE SOME OF THAT USING THE SAME TECHNIQUES AND THE SAME WOOD AND THE SAME CRAFTSMANSHIP, AND IT WILL BE A CHALLENGE, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE, BUT IT IS NEVER GOING TO BE A COMPLETE REPLACEMENT FOR WHAT WE HAVE LOST.

THE CHALLENGE NOW IS, IT IS JUST WHAT TO DO MOVING FORWARD AND HOW ACCURATE COULD THE RECONSTRUCTION BE.

AND SO, LET ME JUST CHALLENGE YOU THERE THEN, BECAUSE YOU KNOW, YOU SAY HOW ACCURATE, BUT YOU KNOW, PARIS IS FULL OF, AND AT LEAST ONE MAJOR EXAMPLE OF AN INACCURATE, IF YOU'D LIKE CONSTRUCTION, AND THAT IS THE GLASS PYRAMID INSIDE OF THE COURTYARD OF THE LOUVRE, THE ANCIENT PALACE OF THE LOUVRE AND THAT CAUSED A HUGE AMOUNT OF CONSTERNATION WHEN IM FIRST DESIGNED AND BUILT IT.

AND THEN THE DOMED TOP THAT IS A LATE ADDITION TO THE BUILDING, AND DO YOU THINK THAT NOTRE DAME, AND THERE IS A COMPETITION OUT FOR DESIGNS, SHOULD BE FAITHFULLY REPLICATED OR CAN IT AFFORD TO BE SOMETHING NEW AND BRAISEN AND NEW TO STAND THE TIME?

WELL, THAT IS THE QUESTION, DO WE RECREATE OR IMAGINE SOMETHING NEW.

WHEN THE EIFFEL TOWER WAS RECREATED, IT WAS ALSO SHOCKING IN PARIS.

IN THE CASE OF NOTRE DAME, THE SPIRE WHICH HAS BEEN LOST WHICH DATED FROM JUST BEFORE THE EIFFEL TOWER IN THE 1850s, AND IT WAS IN ITSELF A NEW IMAGINING MUCH EARLIER SPIRE THAN IT REPLACED, AND SO MONUMENTS EVOLVE, AND THEY MOVE FORWARD AND CULTURES MOVE FORWARD, AND THIS IS ONLY A PERSONAL OPINION, BUT I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE SPIRE RECREATED, REIMAGINED IN SOME NEW FORM WHEREAS THE MEDIEVAL ROOF THAT IS THE TIMBERS HIDDEN FROM VIEW THAT ARE NOW LOST FOREVER, IT WOULD BE APPROPRIATE TO TRY TO RECREATE WHAT WAS LOST IN THE MEDIEVAL TIMBER ROOF WHEREAS THE 19th CENTURY SPIRE PERHAPS COULD BE REIMAGINED AS A 21st CENTURY SPIRE, BUT SOMETHING THAT IS RESPECTFUL OF THE CATHEDRAL AND THE LONG HISTORY.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Mariana Mazzucato about the Green New Deal; Sally Wainwright & Suranne Jones about “Gentleman Jack;” and John Oschendorf about the key to repairing Notre Dame. Walter Isaacson speaks with Ray Dalio, who manages the world’s most successful hedge fund, about the widening wealth gap.

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