IN PICTURES: Seven amazing ideas for the rebuilding of Notre-Dame

The French prime minister has launched an international competition to find exciting ideas for the rebuilding of Notre-Dame - and the designs have come flooding in.

IN PICTURES: Seven amazing ideas for the rebuilding of Notre-Dame
The rooftop garden design for Notre-Dame. Photo: Studio NAB

From a rooftop greenhouse to a roof entirely in stained glass and a spire made of light, architects from around the world have been letting their creativity run wild with the task of rebuilding Notre-Dame's burned out roof.

The roof and spire of the Paris landmark were destroyed in the blaze on April 15, with the cause still under investigation.

And although the government will have the final say, the French people will be consulted about the designs, promised Culture Minister Franck Riester.

“The French will be able to express themselves, and then we'll see which decision (will be taken) and how Notre-Dame will be restored,” Riester told LCI television.


A YouGov poll released this week found that 54 percent of respondents wanted the cathedral rebuilt exactly as it was, including the spire and the intricate “forest” of huge oak beams supporting the lead roof.

Only a quarter supported the idea that the rebuilding should include a modern “architectural gesture”, while a further 21 percent had no opinion.

Here are seven of the most unusual designs:

The Slovakian studio Vizum Atelier's design features a seemingly endless spire to replace the one that collapsed. The spire would be a white peak extended at night by an almost infinite light beam.

“In the Gothic era, builders tried to reach the sky. It's up to us to do it,” poetically proclaim the architects.





“Our proposal for the restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral is to use one element that it has the best, the stained glass. Make all the cover in stained glass, including the tower, with transparency to the inner side, through the opening of the vaults, leaving only the structures flying buttresses. In Gothic there is the connection of the earth to the sky, and inside the Cathedral, the natural illumination multiplies in colors through the filter of the cover in stained glass. At night the inner illumination turns into a grandiose retro backlit coverage. A single element used, stained glass. No new architectural features, no intervention elements (redesign), no ego, no artistic aspirations. Only a religious purpose! Whatever the choice of this restoration, may God enlighten the “Notre Dame”, preferably in a stained glass cover Amen.” Alexandre Fantozzi is not intervention, “redesign”, is restoration! It is not competition of better 3d render, it is only idea of restoration project @notredamedeparis @pontifex_es @alexandre_fantozzi @carvalho.juf @aj6studio @morpholio @architizer @adesignersmind @architecture_hunter @designboom @wallpapermag @archdaily @archdailybr @archdigest @architectanddesign @architecturenow @archello @notredame @saintgobaingroup @saintgobainbrasil @saintgobainglassbrasil @lilysafra @editoramonolito @carolinedemaigret @antoniospadaro @parisfutur @wazou_75 @seemyparis @vivreparis @labnf @vogueparis @glamurama @joycepascowitch @gnt @ad_magazine @thecoolhunter_ @time @babaktafreshi @designmilk @artbasel @artsytecture @instadaconexao @fernandoguerra @parisenespanol #notredame #notredameparis #paris #france #aj6 #aj6studio #morewithless #maiscommenos #vitral #stainedglass #vitrail #arquitetura #architecture #architettura #saintgobain #saintgobainbr #glass #verre #lilysafra #restauration #notredesign #restoration #fantozzi #alexandrefantozzi #design #designer #iluminationdesign #stainedglasswindows #manhattanconexion #avemaria

Une publication partagée par Alexandre Fantozzi (@alexandre_fantozzi) le 22 Avril 2019 à 8 :29 PDT

São Paulo-based architecture practice AJ6 Studio imagines Notre-Dame being rebuilt with a roof and spire made almost entirely from stained glass.

“In gothic there is the connection of the earth to the sky, and inside the cathedral, the natural illumination multiplies in colours through the filter of the cover in stained glass,” explained Alexandre Fantozzi, creative partner at the studio.





Our team has developed a proposal for the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris by @alex_nerovnya. @architecture_hunter @allofrenders @allofarchitecture @designboom @arqsketch @renderlovers @morpholio @adesignersmind @tentree @archdose @norge @autodesk @coronarenderer @houses @buildingswow @onlyforluxury @epicworldpix @render.vis_realestate @highclass_homes @renderbox.magazine @archdaily @canonru @instarender @d.signers @architecturedose @archdigest @next_top_architects @boss_homes @architect_need @artsytecture @restless.arch @archilovers @wacommunity @architectureoskar @render_contest @vogueliving @modern.architect @architecturenow @locarl @globalspaces @wildernessnation @timeouthomes @modernhepcat @haroldmag @theprotraveler @creativefields @travelerstodolist @living_hotels @dreamlixurytraveler @venture_easy @mowellens @camplifecoffee @architectureinteriors @folksouls @trawelawesome @travacs @designwanted @hezzahtrawel @amazingtravelof @nature.tome @kings_shots @aframefever @worldstip @bocadolobo @piclab @effects @exceptional_pictures @natgeoit @igworld_global @pietrogiovannigamba @ourplanetdaily @norgerundt @travelses @mimaribilgiler @architectanddesign @outside_project @openairarchitecture @interiorselfie @myluxguide @pclimd @studioantonini @_archidesignhome_. #notredamedeparis#notredame#paris#france#notredameparis #3dsmax #3d #photoshopcc #Photoshop#archviz#norway#norge#stavanger#stavangerøst#render#corona#coronarenderer#renderlegion#architecture#design#allofrenders#allofarchitecture#cg#cgartist#cgwork#cgworld#marhi

Une publication partagée par Alexander Nerovnya (@alex_nerovnya) le 18 Avril 2019 à 6 :47 PDT

Russian architect Alexander Nerovnya  has suggested a more traditional spire – but a roof made entirely of glass.

“When people come to see the cathedral they will feel a powerful connection to the history seeing the ancient and the modern parts together,” explained Nerovnya.

French designer Mathieu Lehanneur has proposed perhaps the most controversial design – a permanent reminder of the moment flames engulfed the spire.

He said: “Some say that we should rebuild the spire as it was originally. Others say that we should design a new one. So, let’s build a new one as it was… on the day of the fire.”

In a nod to the cathedral's fragility, Italian architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas have suggested a roof and spire made of Baccarat crystal, which would be lit up at night.





How can we re-build the past for a new future. Full Article on BD Architecture 'As a French artist and architect, the process of restoring one of our most sacred and historic landmarks raises few questions in my mind – and a hasty rebuild isn’t the right answer to any of them. Today the French architecture board website reads, ’Heritage, ancient or contemporary, is a revealing and structuring element of our culture, and we must inculcate ourselves to keep alive these markers but also built today the markers of our time’.Ultimately, I trust in France’s cultural core and its decision makers to have the audacity to move forward while retaining The Lady’s timeless image. I can only hope the project will be humble but innovative, delicate, beautiful and engaged,created by highly skilled people around a common table. ' Image by : #notredame #paris #architecture #cgi #visual #whathappennext #imagination #ideas

Une publication partagée par DerooDavid (@deroodavid) le 25 Avril 2019 à 4 :03 PDT

French architect David Deroo says he has tried to balance the historic and the modern with this design which he wants to celebrate Notre-Dame's timeless quality. His design shows a modernised version of the roof and the spire, that nevertheless retains much of the original form of the structure.





Spire me back #notredame #notredamecathedral #buildthesame

Une publication partagée par kiss the architect (@kissthearchitect) le 23 Avril 2019 à 11 :29 PDT

Probably the most left-field design has come from a Cyprus-based architects collective called Kiss The Architect. Their design suggests rebuilding the spire with an eclectic mix of arches and balls wrapped around a central staircase.

Some of the other designs that have been submitted include the creation of a rooftop 'rainforest' or a giant conservatory on top of the building, with a glass roof and planted inside with trees, plants and flowers.

Culture minister Reister added: “In general, when cathedrals are restored, new elements are added. So why not have an architectural gesture allowing us to say there was a before and after, and we don't pretend as if nothing happened?”

“But everything will be done with consultations, and nothing will be done behind people's backs,” he said. 


Member comments

  1. Greenhouse? Maybe . . .
    Stained glass roof . . . fascinating!
    Baccarat? Maybe . . .
    Kiss the Architect? Stunningly hideous, ill-proportioned and “look at me” crap. Like Regie theatre.

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Skulls, beer and a ‘cathedral’: Discover the secrets of underground Paris

You've certainly heard of the Metro, maybe the catacombs and perhaps even the Phantom of the Opera's underground lake - but there are some things lurking beneath Paris that might surprise you.

Skulls, beer and a 'cathedral': Discover the secrets of underground Paris

One of Europe’s most densely populated cities, Paris has over two million people living within its boundaries. As those inhabitants walk along the Champs-Elysées or Rue de Rivoli, they might be entirely unaware of the extensive underground world that exists below their feet. 

These are some of the hidden gems beneath the famous monuments in the City of Light:

Skulls, beer and police

The final resting place for over six million Parisians – the catacombs are the most well-known part of underground Paris, but did you know that the 1,700 metres of catacombs that are open to the public represent less than one percent of the whole of the catacombs in Paris? In fact, the underground network is thought to be around 300 km in size.

The catacombs are also known as the Ossuaire Municipal, and they are located at the site of former limestone quarries. The Ossuaire as we know it was created during the 18th century, because the city’s cemeteries could not withstand its population growth and public health concerns began to be raised. Gradually the remains of millions of Parisians were moved underground.

The bones of Parisians only comprise a small section of Paris’ ‘carrières‘ (or quarries), which can be seen in the above map.

These subterranean passages have fascinated cataphiles for many years – with stories of secret parties, illicit tunnel exploration and much more. During the Covid lockdowns, the catacombs infamously served as a location for clandestine parties. At one point, over 35 people were ticketed for participating in underground raves

The network even has its own police service, the Intervention and Protection Group, known colloquially as the cataflics, who are a specialised police brigade in charge of monitoring the old quarries in Paris.

Though these quarries might be a location to secretly throw back a few pints, they are also connected to beer for another reason, as they are the ideal environment to both store and make beer – with consistently cool temperatures and nearby access to underground water sources.

In 1880, the Dumesnil brewery, located in the 14th arrondissement, invested in the quarries underneath its premises, using them to store the thousands of barrels of beer that it produced each year. Over the years, the brewery simply turned its basement into a real underground factory. 

If you really want to visit the ancient underground quarries specifically, you don’t have to just go to the catacombs. You can also do so by visiting the “Carrières des Capucins.” Found just below the Cochin hospital, located in the 14th arrondissement, access to these tunnels is allowed to the public (with reservation) in small groups.

As for entering the rest of the old quarry system, that has been illegal to enter the old quarries since 1955, which has not stopped several curious visitors and explorers from trying to discover what secrets might be underground. 

Sewer Museum

Recently renovated, this museum might not be at the top of a tourist’s list in the same way the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay might, but the museum of sewers actually has a lot of fascinating history to share. It took almost a century to build Paris’ sewage system, and it is largely to thank for the city’s growth, protecting the public health of inhabitants by helping prevent disease outbreaks. 

Visiting the sewers is not a new activity either – according to the museum’s website, “as early as 1867, the year of the World’s Fair, visits were met with immense public success, the reason being that this underground space had always been hidden from the curious eyes of all those who dwell on the surface of Paris.”

Ghost stations

A total of 16 Metro stations go unused underground in Paris – some were built and never put into use, others were decommissioned after World War II.

The most famous is Porte des Lilas – a working Metro station that has an unused ‘ghost’ section which these days is used for filming scenes in movies and TV.

If you’ve ever watched a scene set in the Metro, chances are it was filmed at Porte des Lilas, which has a section of track that Metro cars can move along if needed for action sequences. 

The extra section was taken out of commission in 1939 due to under-use, and in the 1950s it served as a place to test new metro cars.

Beware if you find yourself in Haxo station – it does not have its own entrance or exit and is only accessible by following the Metro tunnels. It is one of the six that never opened, similar to Porte Molitor, Orly-Sud, La Défense-Michelet, or Élysée-La Défense.

Other stations were closed for being too close to other stations, such as the Saint-Martin station, which was closed after World War II as it was too close to Strasbourg-Saint Denis. 

These phantom stations are usually off-limits to the public, but sometimes access is allowed for special guided tours or events.

Reminders of World War II 

Paris’ underground played an important role during the Second World War.

First, there is the French resistance command bunker, which is now part of the Musée de la Libération at Place Denfert Rochereau.

It was from here that Resistance leaders co-ordinated the battle for the liberation of Paris in 1944.

There is also the anti-bombardment bunker near Gare de l’Est. Normally this is closed during the year, but it is opened on Heritage Day in September. (Journées de patrimoine). 

The bunker was originally commissioned in 1939 to keep trains running, even in the event of a gas attack, and it was completed by the Germans in November 1941. It is located between Metro tracks 3 and 4. The bunker itself – which can fit up to 50 people – has basically been frozen in time, featuring a control room and telephone. 

Another river

You’ve heard of the Seine, but what about the underground river that flows through the city of Paris? Prior to the 20th century, the Bièvre river flowed through the city as well, running through Paris’ 13th and 5th arrondisements. Once upon a time, tanners and dyers set up shop next to the Bievre, shown in the image below. 

The river eventually became quite polluted and concerns arose that it might be a health hazard, so in 1875, as part of his transformation of the city, Georges-Eugène Haussmann decided that the Bièvre had to go. It was mostly covered up, and now what remains of the river flows beneath the city, with some parts of it joining Paris’ sewage system.

The Phantom’s lake

If you are a fan of Phantom of the Opera, you would know that the Phantom’s lair is below the Palais Garnier (the Opera house), and that Christine and the Phantom must cross a subterranean lake to get there.

This body of water is not a figment the imagination of Gaston Leroux – though not an actual lake, a large water tank can be found below the grounds. It is even used to train firefighters to swim in the dark.

The Phantom’s not real, though (probably).


The Montsouris reservoir is one of Paris’ primary drinking water sources, along with L’Haÿ-les-Roses, Saint-Cloud, Ménilmontant and Les Lilas.

But while it’s undoubtedly very useful, it’s most famous for its looks.

The structure resembles a kind of underground water cathedral and is home to over 1,800 pillars, which support its numerous vaults and arches. It’s closed to the public, but its rare beauty means that it’s often photographed by urban explorers.

Mushroom farms

And last but not least – the ‘mushroom houses.’ Les champignons de Paris have been grown below the capital’s soil for centuries.

READ MORE: Inside Paris’ underground mushroom farms

“Paris mushrooms” have been grown since the 17th century. The rosé des près (meadow pink) mushrooms were a favourite of Louis XIV and were originally grown overground – their colour comes from the limestone that Paris is build on.

By the 19th century they went underground, which provided more space and allowed the fungi to be cultivated year-round, but eventually the construction of the Paris Metro pushed many growers out of the capital.

Today, there are just five traditional producers in operation – Shoua-moua Vang runs the largest underground mushroom cave in the Paris region, spread across one and a half hectares of tunnels in a hill overlooking the Seine river.