Belgian landscape architect wins competition for design surrounding famed cathedral.
However the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris gets rebuilt, the surrounding area will be a much greener space than it was prior to the devastating 2019 fire.
A Belgian landscape architect, Bas Smets, plans to transform the “parvis,” the plaza in front of Notre Dame, and other areas around the cathedral in a way that gives a nod to today’s concerns over climate change.
Notre-Dame’s Parvis is actually called Parvis Notre-Dame – Place Jean-Paul II, which memorializes Pope St. John Paul II’s visit to the square in 1980, as well as his subsequent visit to Notre-Dame in 1997 for World Youth Day.
Smets recently won a competition held by the City of Paris to turn Île de la Cité, the island on the Seine where Notre-Dame sits, into a sustainable microclimate, Architectural Digest reported.
The magazine noted Smets’ specialty of turning desolate, hyper-urban sites into eco-friendly oases.
Around Notre-Dame, the Digest said, “Smets will double the number of trees to create more shaded areas, planting varieties that, he said, ‘resist higher temperatures, require less water, and can stand longer droughts,’ like European nettle, maple, and hornbeam. And he is enhancing soil to retain water, ‘like an artificial aquifer.’”
In addition, a section of the underground parking lot will be converted into a 34,000-square-foot visitors center, with a view of the Seine, to welcome tour groups that used to congregate on the parvis. In another portion, a cistern will capture rainwater for irrigation.
Perhaps the most surprising thing visitors will see, however, will be a “wave feature” that will sporadically spread water less than a quarter of an inch deep across the parvis. Its purpose is keep the ground and ambient air temperature cool, but it will also provide a complimentary look at the 12th-century cathedral.
“We want to create a magic moment, when there is an ephemeral mirror reflecting, briefly, the cathedral,” Smets told Architectural Digest. He hopes it will become “an event that people come to see, like the twinkling lights on the Eiffel Tower.”