5 ideas for making Notre Dame even better than before

A sketch of Notre Dame cathedral circa 1850

President Macron has pledged to rebuild Notre-Dame stone for stone in just five years and make it “even better than before”. His prime minister Edouard Philippe has recently announced an international architecture competition to rebuild the spire. French billionaires have valiantly entered into a philanthropic bidding war to become le grandest fromage to sponsor the re-bolstering of Our Lady of Paris, raising €800m.

Apple is one of the global corporations that’s publicly pledged to help, and the US has managed to find some spare change down the back of the sofa, even though Puerto Rico spent 11 months without power and Flint still has no clean water.

Never mind that Notre-Dame cathedral had begged for a paltry €150 million to shore up its rotting stone and repair the ravages wrought by acid rain, the money has now arrived. All it took was a little live-streamed iconoclasm – a relic-stuffed spire toppling into a raging inferno – to get the charitable impulses flowing. 

While academics and historians argue over which version of Notre Dame is more authentic, I’m sure the 1 per cent might have some pointers on more profit-orientated options for a site.

Given the impressive track record that those with accumulated wealth have when it comes to public space, we can make a few educated guesses about the future direction that Notre-Dame could take to capitalise on this prime plot of Paris property.

1. A luxury concept shop

Bricks and mortar shops are having a hard time up against Jeff Bezos and his warehouses of wrist band-tagged workers. You need to offer a whole lot of Instagram experience to pry would-be buyers off their sofas and away from their Amazon Prime accounts. L’Oreal, LVMH and Dior, whose owner-families have all donated to the Notre Dame fund, would know.

Luxe brands are resorting to salesperson sorcery in the pivot from bricks-to-clicks; a concept store amidst the ruins of the scorched stones would mark the natural evolution of influencer culture meets disaster porn. 


A model outside Dior in Paris. Image: Getty.

2. Or just an Apple store

Apple is bucking the trend of hight street misery. Its gleaming glass churches, filled with Genius Bar acolytes, continue to attract devoted throngs. 

If the Catholic Church is worried about losing its flock, why not embrace the enrapturing effect of new technology? An iPhone in the hand is worth two in the burning bush, as they say. Charging ports on pews could come in handy during long services or tourist queues to see the restored relics. 

Besides, now that activists in Australia have mobilised to have Melbourne’s Federation Square nominated as a heritage site, there’s a cancelled Foster and Partners-designed Apple Store going spare. 


The Apple store opening in Milan. Image: Getty. 

3. Hudson Yards 2.0

Is there a single rich person’s playground that cannot be improved by a retractable roof and a stairway to nowhere™ with some dogdy data ownership laws?

In fact, New York City’s The Shed and The Vessel, architectural equivalents of white elephants, might be better suited to the banks of the Seine.

Kinetic architecture could peel back to reveal the stage set for open-air choral concerts on balmy evenings. The replacement spire might even be improved were it covered in mirrored panels, incorporating a plethora of new vantage points. 


The Vessel in Hudson Yards, New York. Image: Getty.

4. Something Brulalist

Yes, this is an 850-year-old gothic masterpiece that has withstood wars, rebellion, and now the President of the Free World’s inane suggestion to waterbomb a flaming hot stone structure.

True, the survival of Notre-Dame’s most precious relics including the 13th century radiating rose glass windows is largely due to mastel stonemasons. They designed soaring vaults that tugged at heart strings while acting as an ingenious two-way fire break between the roof and the main building.

But really, we all know dastardly modern architects are just itching to turn everything in a morass of concrete. Let them do something weird and modern with those flying buttresses and revel their true villainy.


Clifton Brutalist Cathedral in Bristol. Image: Purcell.

5. A sculpture park

Just put a piece of public art there and write some marketing copy about community, yeah?


Christo Vladimirov Javacheff's Mastaba, Serpentine Lake in London. Image: Getty. 


 

 
 
 
 

The IPPC report on the melting ice caps makes for terrifying reading

A Greeland iceberg, 2007. Image: Getty.

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body responsible for communicating the science of climate breakdown – released its long-awaited Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles, the report is a cutting-edge crash course in how human-caused climate breakdown is changing our ice and oceans and what it means for humanity and the living planet. In a nutshell, the news isn’t good.

Cryosphere in decline

Most of us rarely come into contact with the cryosphere, but it is a critical part of our climate system. The term refers to the frozen parts of our planet – the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the icebergs that break off and drift in the oceans, the glaciers on our high mountain ranges, our winter snow, the ice on lakes and the polar oceans, and the frozen ground in much of the Arctic landscape called permafrost.

The cryosphere is shrinking. Snow cover is reducing, glaciers and ice sheets are melting and permafrost is thawing. We’ve known this for most of my 25-year career, but the report highlights that melting is accelerating, with potentially disastrous consequences for humanity and marine and high mountain ecosystems.

At the moment, we’re on track to lose more than half of all the permafrost by the end of the century. Thousands of roads and buildings sit on this frozen soil – and their foundations are slowly transitioning to mud. Permafrost also stores almost twice the amount of carbon as is present in the atmosphere. While increased plant growth may be able to offset some of the release of carbon from newly thawed soils, much will be released to the atmosphere, significantly accelerating the pace of global heating.

Sea ice is declining rapidly, and an ice-free Arctic ocean will become a regular summer occurrence as things stand. Indigenous peoples who live in the Arctic are already having to change how they hunt and travel, and some coastal communities are already planning for relocation. Populations of seals, walruses, polar bears, whales and other mammals and sea birds who depend on the ice may crash if sea ice is regularly absent. And as water in its bright-white solid form is much more effective at reflecting heat from the sun, its rapid loss is also accelerating global heating.

Glaciers are also melting. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, smaller glaciers will shrink by more than 80 per cent by the end of the century. This retreat will place increasing strain on the hundreds of millions of people globally who rely on glaciers for water, agriculture, and power. Dangerous landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods will become increasingly normal in mountain areas.


Rising oceans, rising problems

All this melting ice means that sea levels are rising. While seas rose globally by around 15cm during the 20th century, they’re now rising more than twice as fast –- and this rate is accelerating.

Thanks to research from myself and others, we now better understand how Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets interact with the oceans. As a result, the latest report has upgraded its long-term estimates for how much sea level is expected to rise. Uncertainties still remain, but we’re headed for a rise of between 60 and 110cm by 2100.

Of course, sea level isn’t static. Intense rainfall and cyclones – themselves exacerbated by climate breakdown – can cause water to surge metres above the normal level. The IPCC’s report is very clear: these extreme storm surges we used to expect once per century will now be expected every year by mid-century. In addition to rapidly curbing emissions, we must invest millions to protect at-risk coastal and low-lying areas from flooding and loss of life.

Ocean ecosystems

Up to now, the ocean has taken up more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the global climate system. Warming to date has already reduced the mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, has reduced the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life. By 2100 the ocean will take up five to seven times more heat than it has done in the past 50 years if we don’t change our emissions trajectory. Marine heatwaves are also projected to be more intense, last longer and occur 50 times more often. To top it off, the ocean is becoming more acidic as it continues to absorb a proportion of the carbon dioxide we emit.

Collectively, these pressures place marine life across the globe under unprecedented threat. Some species may move to new waters, but others less able to adapt will decline or even die out. This could cause major problems for communities that depend on local seafood. As it stands, coral reefs – beautiful ecosystems that support thousands of species – will be nearly totally wiped out by the end of the century.

Between the lines

While the document makes some striking statements, it is actually relatively conservative with its conclusions – perhaps because it had to be approved by the 195 nations that ratify the IPCC’s reports. Right now, I would expect that sea level rise and ice melt will occur faster than the report predicts. Ten years ago, I might have said the opposite. But the latest science is painting an increasingly grave picture for the future of our oceans and cryosphere – particularly if we carry on with “business as usual”.

The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of heating is especially important for the icy poles, which warm much faster than the global average. At 1.5°C of warming, the probability of an ice-free September in the Arctic ocean is one in 100. But at 2°C, we’d expect to see this happening about one-third of the time. Rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification, melting glaciers, and permafrost also will also happen faster – and with it, the risks to humanity and the living planet increase. It’s up to us and the leaders we choose to stem the rising tide of climate and ecological breakdown.

Mark Brandon, Professor of Polar Oceanography, The Open University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.