Yung Sai Chun from Studio of SAI shares his inspiration and process behind his Notre-Dame design.
I am an architect who is born and raised in Hong Kong. After completed my master degree in architecture at the University of Hong Kong, I have been practicing as an architect in Hong Kong and Tokyo for more than ten years at a few research-oriented design offices. After leaving Tokyo, I returned to Hong Kong and started my own architectural office called Studio of SAI, which covers projects of various type and scale including furniture, spatial installation, interior and architecture design. In our projects, we always seek to engage sensorial history of geographical, cultural and social realms to address the contemporary issues. We always hope to create architecture that belongs to its place, and respect the tradition.
Recently I am working on a 8-story privately owned museum for an art collector in Guangzhou China. In this project, I tried to bring the traditional Chinese courtyard idea into a vertical configuration. Please feel free to visit the website www.sosai.hk where you can find more interesting information about the project. Apart from professional practice, I am also teaching as a part-time lecturer in universities, where allows me to further examine my design theory and exchange idea with different people.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is a tremendously important building in human civilization globally. The restoration of its roof and spire from the flames is a great challenge for an architect as it involves a great complexity of architectural discourses. However, the issue that caused my attention most is the emphasis on “people” in the competition. A design that should not be solely from a singular authority is suggested. The possible representation of collective aspiration through and in architecture is always one of my interested research topics. Is it possible to engage the people in the design of Notre-Dame’s roof? Is it possible for human participation being a design methodology? Could we have a roof that changes accordingly to people’s aspiration? I see this competition as a great opportunity for me to test out the idea and bring a humble contribution to this important monument. Therefore, I entered this design competition.
My design consists of three major components: a high-pressure nozzles system that creates a misty skin for the roof; a triangular burnt wood frame holding a bridge which allow visitors to access to the rooftop and a glass floor below the bridge which exposes the structure of the cathedral visually.
Historically, a spire of a cathedral is seen as a symbol of piety but also the wealth of the patron. I believe the future of Notre-Dame shall belong to the people and the pubic. I decided to design a symbol that represents a collective aspiration. With the assist of the technology, this misty roof shape would possibly be changed, with connection to the Internet, in order to represent the public opinion. It could be a voting device or for any campaign needed to engage public participation for the future. The roof will transform for the people’s future.
Nevertheless, the design also highly respects the past and history of Notre-Dame.
The wooden frame would be restored according to the destroyed timber skeleton arrangement but substituted with charred wood cedar, a weather resistant treatment by fire. The glass floor also reveals the original stone vaulted ceiling of the Gothic church. All these design features are giving people an extra dimension to understand the history of Notre-Dame.
I wish the fire will not be seen as an urban amnesia, but as an opportunity for Notre-Dame to transcend into a monument that connect the past to the future.