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Middle East design excellence can help rebuild France's Notre-Dame

As France mourns the fire that hit the 850-year-old Notre-Dame, the Middle East's architects can help rebuild the monument

Oscar Rousseau is the deputy editor of Construction Week.
© ITP Media Group / Efraim Evidor
Oscar Rousseau is the deputy editor of Construction Week.

The spire of Notre-Dame de Paris has been destroyed after a blaze ripped through the Gothic structure in Paris on 15 April. As the fire tore through the historical landmark, the world stood still. Reports flooded in of some Parisians weeping in the street, as one of the city’s most famous landmarks – one that has seen the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon, and two world wars – faced permanent destruction.

However, not all is lost, and French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the Notre-Dame de Paris “more beautifully” than ever before. Its reconstruction will be expensive, painstaking, and challenging, but France is determined to complete the restoration work in just five years.

Architects from around the world have been invited to participate in a global competition to design a new spire for Notre-Dame de Paris. The country’s Prime Minister, Edouard Phillippe, has spoken of his desire to find an architectural design that meets the techniques and challenges of the modern era. With this in mind, where better to look than the architects of the Middle East?

After all, they have not only created some of the region’s most futuristic, sustainable, and sublime buildings, but continue to support the architectural heritage of the region as well.

There have been many projects launched in the UAE in the last 12 months to protect and preserve the country’s historical landmarks – some of which have been around for hundreds of years.

As France turns its attention to the reconstruction of one of its most famous monuments, it could learn a thing or two from the Middle East.

Qasr Al Hosn, for example, is one of the oldest and most significant buildings in Abu Dhabi, and can trace its history back to its construction sometime in the 1790s. The historical landmark that houses a palace and a fort reopened in 2018, following more than a decade of reconstruction and restoration work.

In Sharjah, meanwhile, the Al Adwani Tower that dates back to the 15th century has been rebuilt after a government-led initiative to rebuild or restore the UAE’s heritage architecture made significant progress in the emirate.

Alongside Al Adwani Tower, which was damaged in 1985, Khor Fakkan Fort has been rebuilt, with an old souq and mountain houses in Wadi Shie restored under the architectural conservation and restoration efforts.

Both France and the UAE – albeit for drastically different reasons – were both thinking about their historical landmarks shortly before Unesco World Heritage Day.

Held on 18 April, the event is an annual celebration of the most famous monuments in the world, such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. The day is also a vital time to raise awareness of the cultural diversity that exits in the buildings we have constructed.

As France turns its attention to the reconstruction of one of its most famous monuments, it could learn a thing or two from the Middle East.

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Construction Week - Issue 759
Feb 22, 2020