The cathedral was engulfed in flames in April, with the fire destroying its wooden roof and toppling its iconic tower spire. Wire photo.

The world looked on in horror last April as a massive fire gutted the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, destroying its wooden roof and toppling its iconic tower spire.

French President Emmanuel Macron promised to rebuild the cathedral within five years, and for the first time, there is excitement in the air, as a design has been selected to capture the spirit of France and today’s technology.

According to, the design of two young Chinese has won an unofficial competition for rebuilding the cathedral roof and its spire.

The design, named “Paris Heart Beat,” stood out among 226 designs from 56 countries as more than 30,000 people signed up online to vote for their favorite visions.

The winning design envisions a new spire consisting of multifaceted mirrors and a mirror roof. Atop the spire is what the designers dubbed a “Time Capsule,” a structure in magnetic suspension that opens every 50 years, the report said.

Organized by independent book publisher GoArchitect, the People’s Notre-Dame Design Competition aimed to build a vision for the cathedral’s future reconstruction work, although the winning design will not necessarily be included in the final restoration scheme.

“Notre-Dame witnessed Paris’s history for over 800 years. It burned, it survived, and it co-breathed with the ever-changing world. Every time the disaster left its impress upon Notre-Dame and that became an indelible part of history. We believe the 2019 fire will give Notre-Dame a nirvana and marks a new era,” Cai Zeyu and Li Sibei wrote in their design description.

Cai, born in Hangzhou, studied architectural design at Tsinghua University, and Beijing-born Li graduated from Beijing University of Technology. They both pursued higher education at Cornell University, and currently work for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), an architectural firm in Chicago.

The designers did not regard the fire disaster as a scar but a new starting point. The design reflects the history, uses new technology, and echoes French romance. Handout.

Their proposal consists of three parts. The crystal roof serves as a mirror to reflect the ever-changing urban landscape. “Every moment, the building will have a new look, matching the changing urban environment,” according to them.

The inside reflection of the tower spire creates a kaleidoscope that celebrates the city views. With the colored glass dying the light and double-spiral structure expressing the shadow, the designers interpreted the beauty and logic of the rose window of Notre-Dame in an artistic and technological way, the report said.

“A time capsule, designed to be open every half century, is floating at the top of the spire. The magnetic levitation high-tech installation keeps the memory from the past and reserves a space for a future story. The spire’s tip, symbolizing the heartbeat of Paris, moves rhythmically up and down breathing and beating together with the city,” wrote the designers.

Commenting on the design of “Paris Heart Beat,” Wang Haisong, professor with Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, told Beijing News, “The designers did not regard the fire disaster as a scar but a new starting point. The design reflects the history, uses new technology, and echoes French romance.”

Nearly US$1 billion has already poured in from ordinary worshippers and high-powered magnates around the world to restore the fire-ravaged cathedral, Global News reported.

Contributions came from near and far, rich and poor – from Apple and magnates who own L’Oreal, Chanel and Dior, to Catholic parishioners and others from small towns and cities around France and the world.

The famed Crown of Thorns, regarded as Notre Dame’s most sacred relic, was among the treasures quickly transported after the fire broke out, authorities said. Brought to Paris by King Louis IX in the 13th century, it is purported to have been pressed onto Christ’s head during the crucifixion.

The cathedral’s famous 18th-century organ that boasts more than 8,000 pipes also survived. Some of the paintings and other art works are being dehumidified, protected and eventually restored at the Louvre.

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