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Chinese architects win a competition for Notre Dame's reconstruction

Their modern take won over the public with more than 30,000 online votes

Photographs: courtesy Design Notre Dame
Two Chinese architects, Cai Zeyu from Hangzhou and Li Sebei from Beijing, have won an international design competition to reimagine the spire and roof of the famous Parisian landmark. The design of the two Chicago-based architects won out over 226 total submissions from 56 countries, impressing the public with more than 30,000 online votes.

Hosted by US publishing company GoArchitect, the contest was meant to convince the French parliament to rebuild Notre Dame to reflect modern times. Currently, plans are in place to rebuild the cathedral's spire exactly as it looked before the fire last April, meaning Cai and Li's design is unlikely to actually come to fruition.

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In an interview with GoArchitect, Cai explains that the three main parts of his and Li's design are a crystal roof that acts as a mirror, the spire as a kaleidoscope and a floating time capsule above the spire's tip, held in place by magnetic levitation. The design seeks to reconcile the Notre Dame's 800-year-old history with the landscape and life of modern day France.

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Prior to the contest, Cai and Li had visited Europe on separate occasions for internships and volunteer work. Both recall being mesmerised by the Notre Dame – it was this that inspired the two to participate in the contest years later after tragedy had struck the historic cathedral. Although their proposal will likely remain just that, Cai and Li will share a 1,000USD prize and of course, well-earned bragging rights.

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