Fire in the heart of France

FT World Weekly


We're looking at the five that so nearly destroyed the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and implications for world heritage. And for France. Joining me in the studio is the F FTC architectures correspondent, Edwin Heskitt and from Paris across Banovic demands, Victor it's a couple of days since the shock. It's still standing essentially unaltered. I'm how rave is the damage. Well, I think now the the fire is being put out the damage is very very severe to the roof, but it was mainly to the wooden roof and that spot that was on top of that roof, which plunged through the volt of the cathedral into the middle of the cathedral. But the damage to the treasures and artworks inside it's surprisingly minor. It seems in most cases. So I think given the extent of the fire, and that's a horrendous blaze that we saw on that Monday night really things are better than people might have expected. Nevertheless, I mean, there is sort of question about the stability of certain parts of the stonework. Called the stone towers, the bell ties a largely intact. And of course, rebuilding the roof will itself be a very very major project and even the amazing stained glass window survived. Apparently. Yes, not all of them. I mean, you can see that some of the smaller windows, especially high up clearly broken shattered on the disappeared. But the great rose windows for which no pa- them is famous. I still there. There was sort of three major rose windows on the west and the north and the south, and they still seemed to be entitled whether almost certainly smoke damaged, but they're not broken and people are rushing forward to volunteer money to rebuild it. We seem to be up to two billion euros and a few days. That's right. Even when the father was still raging the Pino family offered one hundred million euros, and since then the promises have been rolling in lousy from tycoons big companies in France. But also some foreign companies apple that it would donate some money, and then also sort of French government institutions that does not as public subscription that's going to take place in France. And. People will get tax breaks for donating small amounts of money. So yes, very large sum of money has already been promised. I think we're up to about eight hundred million years at the moment. Now, president mackerel has already said that the whole thing will be rebuilt, but Edwin new wrote in the paper that restoration will take more than just money. It requires a meticulous forensic examination and deep thought about what exactly is to be restored. What do you mean by them? Well, I think there were two questions first there's the situation as it is. I mean, suddenly this becomes a kind of mix of a crime scene and the disaster area. But it's not like an earthquake where you can just bring a bulldozer shovel everything up. Everything has to be mapped out for Ensley because every piece of stonework every piece of gloss is a valuable antique, it might be something hand-carved from thirteen hundred. So the first very long very meticulous arduous exercise is just going through all the damaged stuff on the flaws as collapsed in from the roof woods, the timbers the bits of glass metal the gargoyles. Collapsed in and cataloging all that that's an incredible amount of work before we even get to start reconstruct. And then of course, there's the second issue, which is what exactly it is. You're going to reconstruct isn't a meticulous copy of the church exactly as it was the moment before the fiber account, or do you take it back to state in around nine thousand nine hundred or in eighteen hundred do you strip out some of the worst of the Victorian nineteenth century excessive restorations in additions? What are you building? What is not your damn? You know, what does the base and the French have a record of actually adding modern bits two ancient buildings. I'm thinking of the famous gloss permit in the middle of the Louvre. Do you think they'll take similar opportunity to do something modern with not damore as it to sacred to do that kind of thing with either leave? They just announced before we came on air that there will be a global call for designs for new spa. The spy that fell in so dramatically was actually nineteenth century addition. And it looks like there's going to be a contemporary replacement for that. And. Mean restoration as well as being very difficult technical task. And the task of reimagined nation seems to be a very dangerous thing in itself because actually as far as we can see this fire was set off by restoration efforts. And that's not an isolated incident as it absolutely isn't. I mean here we had the Glasgow school of art which burned down twice during restoration projects. Almost unbelievably. But we'll wait. There have been examples of this happening. And it's a very dangerous and very delicate moment in the life of a building. Because everything is exposed there naked flames there the conditions of building sign, which are always unpredictable. So you're right restoration is necessary. So the building doesn't fall down and remain safe. But it's also arguably the most vulnerable moment the buildings life when it's going to strip naked. And I don't want to turn the focus away from Paris too much. But I'm in here in Britain, people are very worried about the restoration the palace and Westminster including the virus. Yeah. That's right. And the amazing even though that's only one hundred fifty years old one hundred forty as as on by fire. Wasn't it? It was it was originally. But it's a far more complex. Building the church effective is a bond. That's one big space, but parliament is a warrant of rooms and sellers, and it's very heavily used in a way that the church is one big space used by congregation and tourists, but it's much more simple. Use in a way, so Victor turning back to France. I mean, what's the current mood in Paris? Because on the night, it seemed like an almost incredible blow was going to happen to this most celebrated of cities is it now a kind of relief or shock. I think people are already starting to move on to sort of daily politics after twenty four hour break that was declared by the main political parties to grieve as it were not them. I think you know, there's also a financial impact on the city because I think it's the most visited tourist site in Europe and possibly the world something like twelve million people year, go to see no predom-. So obviously, there will be an impact on tourism in the city and people are concerned about that. But yeah, people have already slowly begun to move on. And you've got some of the anti-government protest is Alasia in protest is. Complaining that these big French companies and tycoons able to four large sums of money overnight for not done, which they're not able to do to help the poor. You know, it's very return. If you like, no, more, French politics, but just on the business of restoration. I mean, I think the French have quite a good record of interesting restorations and not necessarily wanting to be totally conservative and just put back. What was already there? I was talking to Jack Lang yesterday. The former culture minister who was one of the people in charge on the fronts from Mitterrand of that Louvre restoration which did have an ineffective short time. I think within five years like the proposed rebuilding of Notre dumb, and he was sort of raising the question that. Yeah. You could use new materials, even if you recreated the spa as that. We were saying it's the nineteenth century structure, you could recreate it, but it wouldn't have to necessarily be in the same materials. So I think you could have a situation where you might not have Aspira tool. You might have something else. You know? I'm quite impressed by the the people are not necessarily talking about totally copying. What was that the main pieces that were lost were? Actually wouldn't beams that they call the forest up in the roof, the huge number of very large oak beams that we used to hold up this leadin roof, and you know, I imagine they'll be looking for some imaginative solutions to replace that. And on the politics of it. I mean, these kinds of vents can take on. I'm fortunate simple IQ import and president Macron was already trying to recover from the relation thing. Had a big speech. Shut your for the very night that as it turned out not dumb. Almost burned down. Do we get have a sense of how this is playing for the president to be hard to say but early to say, you know, he immediately sort of caught the popular mood. I mean, he had cancel counselor speech with any half an hour to go on and brew house to the speech, apparently, the speech was actually prerecorded. So he didn't make that speech. It didn't make those announcements any very much focused on the issue of no predom-, and how to save it. And so on which I'm sure at the time was absolutely the right thing to do both from personal point of view, ethical bundle view from a political point of view. And I think everyone. Appreciated that the questions, you know, how long that will lost. And as I said already a day or so later couple of days later, we've got people sort of wanting to move on and get onto day-to-day politics, and attacking the rich and attacking the government and so on. So I think the moment the effect is pretty much neutral for Matt grant, you know, he did what any president would. I think have done which is to not continue with his normal business politics for a short time. He's getting to resume that probably next week. And you know, that's what people would want him to do. But I I think they would have been surprised if he had done anything else. The one thing where the government and micro might benefit is that this might not be the moment for the Asia. No, all the sort of Cassar the records who appear with them on these much is to lay waste to central Paris, which they threatened to do this coming Saturday. And this might be considered. You know, I think by the people who Paris as a particularly provocative and unpleasant thing to do when the symbol of French culture and religion has just been laid waste by fire. And then let's send by thinking about that. I mean victims said that Notre Dame was possibly the most visited tourist site in the world. I suddenly think Paris is said to be the most visited city in the world. I mean, I guess Paris's a number of symbols the Eiffel tower and so on, but this for it share ancient nece must be almost unique nurses in French. But in European culture, I think so because there isn't an equivalent over here in London, for instance. Because here we have the split between some Paul's and Westminster and Canterbury cathedrals world as the kind of the head of the church the mothership. So it embodies all of these things. So there's a sense that this building is France, we have nothing really to compare that to there's no building of similar significance. Maybe the pulse of Westminster that you mentioned. And then there's the residual kind of animosity towards politicians that goes with that. Which isn't there according to them and architecturally is it fair to say that it's unique because I guess FRANZ has these grand cathedrals as well on things of shots were ruling and so on, but I suppose it's the combination of its ancient is and it's. Centrality to Paris. I think necessarily what its position on the diversity in that site with the public square in front of it makes it it is century FRANZ. It's the place from which distances are measured. It's very consciously the heart it's going to physical and metaphysical heart of the country. So yes, absolutely. Is there?

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