On April 15, the world watched as fire ravaged the Notre-Dame Cathedral. One company is finding creative ways to rebuild the landmark using 3D printing technology.
Concr3de, a Dutch company, is proposing rebuilding parts of the cathedral from the ashes.A mixture of limestone and ash, similar to the materials found after the fire, would be used in the replication. The mixture was added during the 19th century restoration by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Founded by architects Eric Geboers and Matteo Baldassari in 2016, Concr3de used 3D scans to reproduce Le Stryge, the demon statue that sits on the roof of Notre-Dame that was severely damaged in the fire.
To create the statue, Concr3de used scans of the statue that were available on the internet and printed it using a small 3D printer.
"We saw the spire collapse and thought we could propose a way to combine the old materials with new technology to help speed up the reconstruction and make a cathedral that is not simply a copy of the original but rather a cathedral that would show its layered history proudly," Geboers told Dezeen.
Geboers does not want to copy the Notre-Dame Cathedral. He believes using the materials left behind by the fire would address some philosophical problems that come with rebuilding the cathedral to the original design with new materials.
"Isn't a copy just a fake? Simply copying, pretending there never was a fire, would be a historical forgery," he said.
Concr3de’s proposal allows the original material of the building to be used in the reconstruction process, including the limestone damaged.
The Lutetian Limestone that was used to build the Notre-Dame Cathedral, along with much of Paris, was taken from mines that are now buried under the city. The large oak beams that made up the timber room were made from trees from the 13th century. These materials are priceless parts of history, and Concr3de’s plan to reuse them could add to the rich history of the cathedral.
"We would break down the limestone to the right grade and the fire damage would not have an effect," explained Geboers.
This technique could be used to possibly print stone vaults to replace those that were damaged when the spire collapsed and crashed through the roof.
"It would most likely be cheaper to print the lost pieces than to cut new stone," Geboers said.
Concr3de believes this technique could rebuild Notre-Dame in the five years the French president promised. However, experts predict it could take decades.The secretary general of France's manual trades organisation, Les Compagnons du Devoir, warned that it would take years to hire and train the hundreds of stonecutters and masons required to work on a project of this magnitude.
3D printing the intricate pieces could help address the labor shortage and Concr3de suggests still employing skilled stonemasons to fix the printed pieces into place.
It is unclear if the future Notre-Dame will resemble its previous self or if the design will take on a more forward-thinking approach. Either way, we’re excited to see if and how 3D printing is employed for the monumental task.