gensler reveals design for temporary place of worship at notre dame

gensler reveals design for temporary place of worship at notre dame

international architecture practice gensler has revealed its proposal for a temporary pavilion while the notre dame of paris is undergoing careful restoration. the structure pays homage to the existing gothic cathedral that was devastated by fire on april 15th, 2019, while also providing a space for worshippers and the community to gather. designed to sit in front of the cathedral’s west façade in parvis square, the concept intends to offer a beacon of hope to both parisians and visitors to the city.

gensler designs a temporary place of worship for notre dame designboom

all images courtesy of gensler



rather than an outlandish design, gensler‘s concept is instead quietly striking in respect to the 850-year-old cathedral. with this in mind, the structure proposes to use charred timber as a symbolic gesture to the parts of the building that were lost to fire while providing added strength and durability. ‘charred timber, which is one of the oldest and most effective methods of protecting wood from fire, also symbolises that what once destroyed notre-dame will only serve to make it stronger thus expressing a language of rebirth and transformation,’ says duncan swinhoe, regional managing principal at gensler.

 gensler designs a temporary place of worship for notre dame designboom

the design provides a space for worshippers



in addition to the use of charred timber, the design pays homage to the notre dame as it recalls the structural rhythms and forms of the gothic cathedral. in contrast to the blackened structure, the interior of the pavilion will be bathed in light by the implementation of translucent polycarbonate walls and a roof made from ETFE cushions. the bright, airy space is designed to signal new life while also creating a light-filled, contemporary spatial experience.

gensler designs a temporary place of worship for notre dame designboom

the space will serve also as a place for the community to gather



the pavilion will cater for a variety of functions, from religious services to exhibitions and markets to performances. the structure includes rotating panels at the side that allow the space to open up entirely. the ‘humble’ proposal also never forgets the original cathedral, as behind the altar, movable panels will be installed that will allow for a full view of the iconic notre dame.

gensler designs a temporary place of worship for notre dame designboom

rotating side panels allow the space to open up



‘it is important that the design is true to, but doesn’t upstage, the cathedral. we wanted to strike a balance between a structure that invites the community yet can be transformed to become a reflective and spiritual haven when mass is celebrated. we hope this offers the people of paris, and the world, a statement of hope and rebirth,’ explains swinhoe.

gensler designs a temporary place of worship for notre dame designboom

the use of translucent polycarbonate walls creates a bright, airy space

gensler designs a temporary place of worship for notre dame designboom

aerial view of the proposal



project info:


project type: proposal for a temporary structure for notre dame

location: notre dame cathedral, paris, france

architect: gensler

  • Wow, this is really beautiful. The design preserves the openness the space, treads lightly in the shadow the beloved building, and acknowledges the history of the cathedral right up to April 15th.

    Christopher Arabadjis says:
  • Turning Notre Dame’s into a blandspace for everything and its plaza into a cafetaria won’t happen.
    Enough with the uniformisation of everything so that tourists feel like they’re in their couches.

    Aristotal says:
  • Modern architecture truly is aesthetically inferior to classics. It feels more like im in an office lobby than a church

    Lora huy says:
  • I ask the website moderator to post my comments please. Any designer who thinks to intervene in a religious place should understand first the history, culture and environment of that place ! This cathedral is a christian symbol, we cannot use the place as coffee shops!

    John Brandton says:

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