Personal Reflection on the Tragedy of April 15, 2019 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France #Paris #Fire #NotreDame #Reflection #Architecture #CarpeDiemPosted: April 15, 2019
Reflection on the Tragedy of April 15, 2019
This week is Holy Week, when millions of Western Christians mark the death and resurrection of Jesus. Under normal circumstances, Notre Dame cathedral in Paris would have been preparing to display its holy relics to the faithful on Good Friday.
But as fire engulfed the sacred site on April 15, 2019, Catholics across the world reacted in horror and disbelief, particularly when the cathedral’s iconic spire toppled amid the flames.
For generations, Notre Dame Cathedral has been a place of pilgrimage and prayer, and, even as religion in France has declined for decades, it remained the beating heart of French Catholicism, open every day for Mass.
When something that is tragic like the Notre Dame Cathedral fire occurs, it is important to take time to reflect on what happened. First, I look at this tragedy as a Christian, then as the grandson of European immigrants, and finally as an Architect. I reflect on these recent events using three distinct but entwined lenses:
- As a Christian, I reflect on what it means to be Christian. Although imperfect, we are all put on Earth to accomplish great things. Some have more than others, but we all have our crosses to bear. As Easter approaches, for many Christians around the world who celebrate this holiest of days it is a time of reflection and hope of things to come. As Jesus said, you are not of this world (we belong to Him). When these events happen it also makes us aware of our fleeting earthly lives.
- As a grandson of Europeans, I feel a strong camaraderie with my neighbors in France. As technology helps the world shrink we are becoming global citizens. But as someone who has spent many summers and taken many trips to Europe (probably more than 30 trips over my four decades), I feel a strong connection to what happens in Europe. I have the same feeling in my stomach that I had when 9-11 happened in New York City. We take for granted that these beautiful structures will always be here with us. These events remind us that we must cross off trips that are on our bucket lists sooner rather than later.
- As an Architect, my primary objective is to safeguard the public. Sure, I love great design and inspiring spaces as much as the next designer. However, being an Architect means that we must put safety above all else. When these events occur, I cannot help but think how vulnerable we are. As Architects we are always trying to evoke safety and security into our projects – Many times decisions are made with money more than risk aversion. A 100% safeguard world is not possible, but I challenge my fellow Architects to consider ways that we can educate and confront our clients to ensure that all our buildings are safe. We are all human with earthly perspectives and we are all bound to mistakes as we manage economics with safety. Take for example, the Seton Hall student housing fires that changed safety for campus of higher educations around the country. Can this tragedy bring some good? Perhaps as leaders in our industry we can shape the safety and preservation of our landmarks and new building projects to ensure the safety of the occupants.
Churches, castles and forts are the primary reason I chose this profession. Whenever we lose a structure of significance it is like losing a loved one. Like life itself, our art and architecture must be cherished because it is all temporary after all. Carpe Diem.
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