Notre-Dame Restoration: The Greening of the Cathedral Square

Notre-Dame Restoration: The Greening of the Cathedral Square
The devastating 2019 fire in Notre-Dame Cathedral will result not only in a major renovation for the cathedral but also for the surrounding gardens, parvis and neighborhood streets. The result, according to the City of Paris, will be to improve and expand visitors’ connection to the cathedral and the Seine while providing a comfortable green space that assists with managing the higher temperatures from climate change. The project will have three focuses. The parks around the cathedral will be merged into a continuous area by eliminating fences and high hedges so visitors can have closer views of the flying buttresses, stained glass windows and a closer relationship with the Seine. More trees will be planted for shade in the parks and the parvis, plus a thin layer of water will trickle in front of the cathedral to help lower temperatures during heat waves. The current underground parking lot will be transformed into an underground walkway that opens onto the Seine with a welcome center/reception area and access to the ancient remains of the Gallic Lutetia docks. The Notre-Dame de Paris on fire, April 15, 2019 at 21:21. Photo credit © Baidax, (CC BY-SA 4.0) The idea is to improve the visitor experience plus attract Paris’s citizens who rarely go to the area. Before the fire, the cathedral attracted an average of 12 million visitors a year creating long lines that filled the parvis and the surrounding streets but few residents. “This vast project aims to bring Parisians back to the cradle of Paris and welcome many visitors in better conditions,” claims the City of Paris announcement. Rendering of the project “to green” Notre-Dame, courtesy of the Ville de Paris/ Studio Alma Tourists on the parvis in front of Notre-Dame as the cathedral undergoes a restoration. © Martha Sessums Notre-Dame cathedral will reopen in time for the 2024 Olympics and the surrounding area renovation will start in the second half of 2024 when the site is free of scaffolding and construction buildings. It is expected to be finished in 2027. The city recently held a competition for renovation plans and the winner was Bas Smets, a Belgian landscape architect. The team also includes GRAU, a French architecture and urbanism studio and Neufville-Gayet, a French architecture agency. It will cost 50 million euros and be financed by the City of Paris. “For 800 years, Notre-Dame has been a privileged witness to the transformation of the city,” said Mr. Smets. “Rethinking its surroundings means first question which public spaces are for the city of tomorrow. The urban figures such as the forecourt, square, alignment and (river) banks are all present around the cathedral but in a fragmented way. The project reveals the quality of each place and rethinks each of these figures from the double angle of the collective and the climate.”

Lead photo credit : Notre-Dame. Photo credit © Stefaan,

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Intrigued by France since her first stroll along the Seine, Martha and her husband often travel to Paris to explore the city and beyond. She lives part-time on the Île de la Cité and part-time in the San Francisco Bay Area, delighting in its strong Francophone and French culture community. She was a high-tech public relations executive and currently runs a non-profit continuing education organization. She also works as the San Francisco ambassador for France Today magazine.