Personal Reflection on the Tragedy of April 15, 2019 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France #Paris #Fire #NotreDame #Reflection #Architecture #CarpeDiem

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.

Source: CNN


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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A Reflection on 10 Great Years

An abbreviated list of memories:

1999 – Cindy and I celebrated our first New Years as a couple. We fake being married for discounts at B&B in Cape May at the Queen Victoria. We use our anniversary as our wedding date. I propose to Cindy about 6-months after we start dating, I know she’s the one.

2000 – Portugal with Cindy – last time I would see my Grand-Uncle T, Grandpa J, and Grandma A. I try to remember those I have lost and try to recapture moments of them, until the point where I am about to break down and cry. I treasure my time with my last living grandparent, and try to remember her in her prime and how strong she was. I really try to listen to her stories so I can remember them for my children.

2001 – Got Married to the Woman of my dreams. Alaska honeymoon is unforgettable– dogsledding on a glacier, riding a paddle boat, Mount McKinley.

2002 – A thought-provoking year reflecting 9-11 and how life would never be the same, Cindy and I questioned having children. Working on design competitions with close friends – Johnny Cortese, Amilcar Melendez, and Mark Giessen.

2003 – Frankie Jr was born 9 months after our trip to Australia and New Zealand and I understood what it was to be responsible for another precious life. I realized that my life would never be the same. I drove home so slow from the hospital that brisk day in November, I remember it like it was yesterday.

2004 – I really really focused on my career. Saw the completion of the Babbio Center at Stevens Institute of Techology in Hoboken (finally) complete and was emersed in the design/detailing of the Recreation Center at Montclair State University.

2005 – Major changes at work encourages me to form my own company. FC3 Architecture+Design LLC was established. I remember father’s day in Wildwood and Cape May NJ.

2006 – I started working on a few freelance projects, a modern home in Edgewater NJ and a colonial one in Summit NJ stand out. The colonial one was built and although I have worked on larger projects it confirmed my ambition to go off on my own.

2007 – David and Daniel were born. Three boys! I cannot even begin to express how much joy was filled in my heart. I never knew that I would have the capacity to love so much.

2008 – I left a firm I was with for nearly 8-years to go work for my client for whom I had completed over 40-projects. The list continues to grow now from the “other” side. I join FB and increase my online presence. Then Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. the list seems to grow every month.

2009 – First “family” trip to Portugal for the summer. My first international project was completed (albeit a small one). My heart’s capacity to love and feel has expanded so many times over the past 10-years that I cannot even begin to express my thoughts in words. This year freelancing was slow so I begin to express myself through my photography and artwork.

I am thankful for all the love and encouragement from all my loved ones who I hold dear. I wish for peace, joy, hope, prosperity, and health so that the next decade is filled with happiness for us all.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post.  We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Frank Cunha III
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