Why Notre Dame could - and perhaps should - look very different when it's rebuilt

The Kiwi architect overseeing the completion of an iconic Barcelona church says the restoration of Notre Dame is 100 percent possible.

But the architectural icon could look quite different in the future, and Mark Burry says there's a strong argument in favour of that outcome.

"It's going to be a very different landmark for a very, very long time - at least decades," he told Newshub.

He's spent three decades working on another landmark of similar scale. The Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's masterpiece in Barcelona, is almost complete after 137 years of work.

Burry says technology has been the key to its progress, and it will be the same for the Notre Dame rebuild. Both cathedrals are among those recently mapped using extraordinary new laser technology.

"I cannot overstate the value that that will be to the restoration team," he says. "It'll give them all the information they need."

The 3D models are so accurate, they will even provide information for parts of the structure that had started crumbling away after 856 years of rain, snow and pollution.

The decay is so serious, a major renovation project was already underway - which Tuesday's fire may have actually helped.

"It'll actually be quicker and more effective building from scratch, rather than trying to take the odd stone away and replace it with a fresh piece," Burry says.

This is good news, but he says complications will arise and delays will be caused by a fierce cultural debate over what the 'new' Notre Dame should look like.

"I suspect the popular view is to try to get it to look as close to it was before the fire, but the trouble is it will look like it was built yesterday and not 850 years ago."

He says embracing new architecture can be just as powerful as replicating the old.

"The spire, which was the first part that collapsed, was built in the 19th Century by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. It had already collapsed from an earlier edition, and as far as I know, he didn't repeat what had already been there."

It's proof a new design can actually become something iconic in its own right.


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