The lead architects of the rebuilding of the Notre Dame cathedral have headed to D.C. to deliver a presentation on the project — the architects’ first lecture in the U.S. A group of Catholic University students and volunteer builders raised a three-story replica roof truss in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to welcome them.
The group has now raised the truss five times all around D.C. and in Atlanta, Georgia. It is done with dozens of pulleys running thousands of feet of rope with around a hundred hands steadily reeling and hoisting the heavy white oak structure.
Though the architects had flight issues and couldn’t make the raising of the truss, they plan on stopping by before heading to the National Building Museum for their presentation.
“This is truss No. 6,” said Rick Brown a professor emeritus at Massachusetts College of Art Design in Boston and co-founder of Handhouse Studio. “The design was sent to us from the lead architects of Notre Dame, we were very honored that they actually would share the drawings with us.”
After Notre Dame’s roof burned in 2019, Brown initially wanted to build the truss help with construction.
Instead, it is now a “statement of solidarity among traditional builders all around the world, and an act of goodwill among neighbors” according to Brown.
He also wanted to get students involved and contacted Catholic University’s architecture department.
Several students who are more accustomed to Auto CAD programs were introduced to 800-year old methodology and traditional tools.
“Working with traditional carpenters, and to be able to develop that relationship with architects working so closely to builders in a traditional technique — it’s just an amazing learning experience,” said Brown.
“It’s just incredible, the craftsmanship and just the knowledge and the expertise that they they have to, you know, turn such big logs and just turn it into such a beautiful structure that supports such a heavy load,” said Andrew Masison a master’s student at Catholic. “It’s really incredible to be alongside and see that whole process unfolds.”
Once the truss was standing 35 feet in the air, the carpenters and builders followed a medieval tradition, the youngest builder scaled the truss and placed a whetting bush (evergreen) on top of the structure for luck.
Brown told WTOP after its short stay in front of the Basilica, the truss will be disassembled and stored in Rockbridge County, Virginia.