Notre Dame Cathedral to get expanded park, underground entryway

Officials in Paris have revealed the winning plans for a redesign of the area around Notre Dame Cathedral as work continues to rebuild the fire-damaged icon.

A jury, chaired by the mayor of Paris, selected a design that includes a larger outdoor greenspace and an underground reception center that will be open to the riverbank along the Seine.

Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets came up with the winning design after determining the site needed to be more pedestrian friendly to encourage people to spend time around the gothic landmark, The Guardian reported.


A view showing the planned entrance to "le passage" in front of Notre Dame. (Studio Alma for BBS)

Renderings and video from Bureau Bas Smets show more green space and many more trees around the cathedral, which sits on an island in the Seine. The underground space, currently a parking garage, will be converted into "le passage," a 1,000-person reception center with meeting rooms and access to the crypt underneath the building.

That underground space will be open along the south side, bringing in light and allowing access to the narrow riverfront along the Seine, which was previously closed off to the walkway there.


A view showing how the underground space will be opened to the riverfront. (Studio Alma for BBS)

"These spaces frame new views on Notre-Dame, create a new relationship with the Seine and offer new activities," explained a statement from Bureau Bas Smets. "The Ile de la Cité becomes the epicentre of Paris once again."

An additional innovation includes a fountain feature that will keep water flowing across the square in front of the cathedral, helping lower temperatures on hot summer days while also providing a unique photographic element for tourists.


A wide view showing the expanded and connected green space behind the cathedral. (Studio Alma for BBS)

This phase of the project, estimated to cost over $50 million, should be complete by 2027.

The cathedral itself should be open, in a limited fashion, before that. Not long after the devastating 2019 fire, President Emmanuel Macron set a 2024 goal for allowing visitors back inside the 800-year-old building.

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This story was reported from Tampa, Fla.