Gothic architecture: Can the 12th-century style radically change how we build today? – CNN Style
Gothic architecture is tall, slender, sleek and elegant. New York-based architect Mark Foster Gage looks at the history of one of the world’s most recognizable architectural styles, and explains why gothic is not just a thing of the past.
Written by Mark Foster Gage, CNN
Little over a year ago the world nearly lost one of its most recognizable examples of Gothic architecture, as the spire and a sizeable part of the roof of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris burned to ashes
. Now the debate carries on about what to do with the damaged building. Should the missing spire be restored to its original Gothic form, or updated with something more in line with the architecture of today? And what does it mean to be “Gothic” anyway? If something is Gothic can it also be contemporary? For such questions we need a little background.
Although construction began on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in 1160, it was not completed until nearly a century later, in 1260. And it wasn’t until 600 years after that, in 1860, that the aforementioned spire was added, as part of a larger building renovation campaign. Over its long life of construction, additions and subtractions, Notre Dame has witnessed a staggering amount of human history. It will survive the Covid-19 crisis, as it also survived World War II, World War I, the 1918 Spanish Flu, and the most devastating pandemic in human history — the Black Plague of the 14th century.
Such buildings, which are witness to our civilization over long timelines, are important in allowing us to understand our collective past, and therefore ourselves. Even more reason we should try to better understand them.
While originally religious in nature, Gothic architecture, as exemplified in the design of Notre Dame Cathedral, has had a much richer and fuller existence over the past millennia than only being used in our most famous cathedrals. Its origins stretch back as far as the 6th century, where some of its defining elements, such as the flying buttress, can be found in their earliest forms. However, it was in the 12th century that Gothic buildings truly began to emerge in full force in medieval cities and villages, as new ideas about engineering, stone carving and structure, and the desire for more height and interior light prompted the creation of the phenomenal buildings we recognize today.
It was during this period that the most important elements of the Gothic language were established, and the style began to be set, literally, in stone.
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