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Is it possible to rebuild Notre Dame in five years?

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By Vincent McAviney
Is it possible to rebuild Notre Dame in five years?

With the fire damage at Notre Dame not quite as dire as first expected, the call has gone out for experts from around the world to help with the restoration.

In his address last week, President Macron set the ambitious task of rebuilding the cathedral within 5 years, in time for the Paris Olympics.

But how likely is this?

Britain can provide some comparisons after a spate of fires in historical buildings.

In 1984 York Minster’s South Transept caught fire causing millions of pounds in damage which took four years to repair.

Then in 1992, Windsor Castle, home of British monarchs dating back to Norman times, suffered extensive damage with the fire destroying 115 rooms leading Queen Elizabeth to dub it her “annus horribilis”.

Architect Peter Riddington oversaw the £36 million Windsor repair which took five years to complete -and he thinks President Macron’s timetable is doable.

“Certainly given the will and with the manpower, if they source the manpower to do it then I could see that being achievable,” he said “But there is one contingent and that’s the availability of wood to rebuild the roof. Now they may not have to necessarily rebuild the roof in wood because the medieval structure's all gone, they may be able to repair the elements of the medieval structure that survived but then the elements that are destroyed entirely there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t be built in a modern way with steel or whatever other material might be available. But that would certainly decrease the programme time if they didn’t have to wait for wood. Wood would be a major issue.”

Peter has also worked on restoration plans for the British Parliament. Its current structure is itself a Victorian replacement for one lost in a fire - but is now increasingly falling into disrepair and many are worried it could suffer a similar fate.

“This is a building that is fundamentally at the heart of British politics and actually international world politics – it’s the mother of parliaments for goodness sake,” Riddington said “We may not like the people inside it very much, but actually it means more than the people inside it. And that’s why it’s important to back the proposals to repair and restore it because without those we will lose that building and we wouldn’t want to lose that building anymore than the French would want to lose cathedral of Notre Dame.”