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Chinese Architects Cai Zeyu and Li Sibei Win People’s Notre Dame Design Competition

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US-based Chinese architects Cai Zeyu and Li Sibei have won the People’s Notre Dame Design Competition with a spectacular proposal for rebuilding the iconic cathedral’s roof and spire entitled “Paris Heartbeat”.

People around the world watched in horror back in April as the 800-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral’s spire and roof were set ablaze. In response, GoArchitect launched the People’s Design Competition to trigger debate around what should be done to rebuild the famous French monument — should the old spire be reconstructed, or should something new take its place?

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The open call attracted 226 entries from 56 countries, with the winning proposal announced this week.

Based at Chicago-headquartered firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Cai and Li put forward a spectacular design that would merge magnetic levitation, a time capsule, and a Rose Window-invoking kaleidoscope. “The 2019 fire will give Notre dame a nirvana and mark a new era,” they told GoArchitect. “The new spire is interpreted into poly mirrors, gently reflecting the context together with the mirror roof. Every moment, the building will have a new look, matching the changing urban environment.”

notre dame paris design

The architects’ statement continues: “A strong connection among the building, the city and the time has been established by the dramatic reflection. A time capsule, designed to be open every half century, is floating at the top of the spire.”

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Cai grew up in Hangzhou and attended Tsinghua University before taking a graduate program at Cornell University. Li, from Beijing, was an undergraduate at the Chinese capital’s University of Technology before she too went to Cornell. You can read more about the pair in this GoArchitecture interview.

Images from GoArchitecture

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.