September 29, 2022
A year ago, Juan Soto, a student at the Catholic University’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning, helped build a life-size replica of Truss No. 6, one of the massive supports of wooden roof which was destroyed when a fire in April 2019 ravaged the iconic Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral. The farmhouse was built using 800 year old construction methods.
He also learned the architecture and construction methods of the French Gothic church in the classes of the School of Architecture and Urban Planningmedieval timber framing techniques and other aspects of cathedral construction, and he and his classmates built models that included several key architectural elements.
Now, architecture students would not only meet the chief architects tasked with restoring this iconic structure, but they would also have the opportunity to discuss the cathedral and have their work critiqued by these international experts.
“The 2019 fire really opened everyone’s eyes to the complexity and detail of building architecture from natural history. This historic icon of Notre Dame is something very special to everyone because it’s a design feat in itself It’s a very detailed and very large architectural project that has stood the test of time, over 800 years, and I think it’s really important for everyone to learn how these people came together to build this cathedral and bring it back,” Soto said.
He added that the day was “an incredible opportunity to meet them [the architects]. I think it’s amazing to have this opportunity here at the Catholic University, and to be able to talk to them and get their point of view, their opinion on Notre-Dame.
The visit almost didn’t happen after a canceled flight from Paris delayed the architects’ arrival in Washington, DC, by a day, but Philippe Villeneuve and Rémi Fromont wanted to see the replica of the farmhouse – a part of the Handshouse Studio Notre-Dame de Paris Truss Project – and visited campus before giving their first public lecture in the United States at the National Building Museum. The Catholic University was their first stop in the United States.
Expressing their “joy” to see the farmhouse – a replica of what had been lost in the fire – the two architects huddled with the volunteer workers to compare notes and discuss the construction. Villeneuve and Fromont then went to the Crough Center to visit Soto and the other students. Of particular interest were the scale models and replicas the students had made of simple but important elements of the cathedral’s construction.
Tonya Ohnstad, assistant professor of architecture who, with the support of the University, invited architects to visit the Catholic University, said: “We are interested in the material life of buildings. By examining a humble and repeatable element of our most beloved buildings, we can reveal complex cultural conditions, innovative responsive technologies, and are poised to transfer intangible heritage over generations. »
The architects decided to return to Catholic University after their interview, surveying the farmhouse and talking with volunteer builders, including Abigail Sekely, BA 2020, late that night.
Earlier in the day, following a prayer offered by Rockville Center Bishop John Barres, a member of the university’s board of trustees, the large wooden truss, built on campus in 2021, was been raised. Catholic University students, two university administrators and Trevor Resurreccion, BA 2001, who helped fund the elevation of the truss, joined Handshouse Studio and other volunteers to grab the ropes and pull the truss 35 feet by 45 feet.
Resurreccion said there was “no place more appropriate than the Catholic University” to support such an important project where students have the opportunity to discover how religion, art, history and human ingenuity can be intertwined. “This is a unique opportunity for students.”
Once the truss was raised, a worker scaled the structure to place a “sharpening bush” (evergreen) on top, in an age-old tradition. The gesture recognizes the hard work of the workers and thanks the forest for the gift of the trees, a speaker noted.
Dr Peter Kilpatrick, President of Catholic University, said: “One of the most exciting things about what we did today was bring together many different threads of what is so important to our university. : integration of disciplines. Bringing together history and architecture and art and our faith and global culture in one project really exemplifies that important part of our mission as a university, which is to integrate the disciplines.
Before heading to the Crough Center for a panel discussion, Marie Brown, director of Handshouse Studio, thanked the helpers gathered on University Lawn “for coming together to make this gesture of raising this farm here today, in community, handmade to celebrate cultural heritage and the importance of curiosity, connection and community.