Thoughts on Notre Dame

Categories: Articles

The National Building Museum staff, like the world, looked upon in horror at the tragedy that befell Notre Dame on Monday, April 15. Our mission is to inspire curiosity about the built world, and there are few buildings—if any—that have inspired more generations of people than Notre Dame. We invited staff to share their thoughts.

Original painting by Vlad Zabavskiy, senior graphic designer for the Museum, made after a trip to Paris.

“The unimaginable has happened.  The near-destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral unfolded before our very eyes. This tragic incident serves to remind all of us why buildings, why places, why iconic designs  matter. Around the world, the most revered, most memorable and most inspirational buildings are embodiment and reflections of mankind’s cultural heritage. That heritage was sadly diminished yesterday. Today we must cherish our memories of the old Notre Dame as we prepare to embrace a renewed cathedral in the future.”

Chase Rynd, executive director

“People talk about the power of place/space, but there are few structures that (through design, use, history, or a certain je ne sais quoi) actually have the ability to, for lack of a better term, move the soul. Notre Dame is one of those structures, leaving visitors with a profound connection to something more. The walls, the roof, the embellishments, all help to create that connection, but the scars of this fire, though deep and jarring, are too superficial to erase or diminish the power that resonates within the walls of Notre Dame.”

Annalee Shum, education

“I didn’t get to see it in person! I screamed internally, heart breaking, as I watched the cathedral burn. I am a museum person, seeing the real thing is so important, there is nothing like it. I walk into our own building every work day and I try to keep my wonder at the light streaming into our great hall, to touch the 75 foot columns. General Meigs had visited Europe and Rome and had seen the ruins of other great buildings. He had in mind both the creation and destruction of this building as he designed it. 15.5 million bricks strong, fireproof, built to withstand the test of time. Then there are the time capsules tucked away in many of our second floor columns, that will only be revealed upon the buildings destruction.

I’m so grateful that the brave and hardworking firefighters of Paris were able to save as much of the structure as they were. I have no doubt they will rebuild and the history of Notre Dame will continue and evolve as it always has. We will continue our work here at the National Building Museum to teach about the importance of buildings in our day-to-day lives but also in the history of humanity.”

Kristen Sheldon, visitor services