New Russian Church in Paris
With View of Eiffel Tower

More than 400 designs from different countries were originally submitted to the competition commission. The selection has now
been narrowed down to 10 designs. One of these is shown above and represents a building with contemporary architecture and a
cathedral topped with five onion domes, all integrated in the form of a glass wave, and representing the abundance of nature.

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A minute part of Russia is due to appear on the Seine River’s left bank between the Alexander the Third Bridge and the Eiffel Tower. The first stage of an international competition for the best architectural design of a Russian spiritual and cultural centre is over, with 10 contestants making it to the second round. A total of more than 400 designs from different countries of the world were originally submitted to the competition commission.

The idea to build this kind of centre surfaced in 2007, when the previous Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexi the Second came to France on a visit. The Russian Patriarch deplored the fact that Orthodox churches in Paris were numbered despite the city splendor and the abundance of Russians in the French capital. Three years later Russia won the tender for buying an area of 4,500 square metres in Paris, and the decision was made to build a centre there that would have to do with both Russian spirituality and Russian culture, says an official of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk in an interview with the Voice of Russia, and elaborates.

Paris does have Russian Orthodox churches, Archbishop Mark says, but the premises that are used for a Cathedral also host the church of Three Sanctifiers. The premises are actually a former garage with low ceilings and small floor area that has been rebuilt to be used as a church. The current Cathedral cannot hold all the believers who make their home in Paris and would like to attend an Orthodox service. Hence the need to build a new church, one that would prove spacious enough to hold one and all.

The Paris authorities require that the new church should not be taller than 32 meters. Otherwise, an Orthodox center will break the architectural ensemble of the historical part of Paris.

This restriction, however, produced on effect on the contestants’ projects. French architect Dumon Legrand, one of the 10 winners of the first round, pursues a genuinely Russian spirit in his project and sees the new church as similar to the wooden church in Kizhi. Colored in bright blues and oranges, the concrete building looks more than extravagant.

In contrast, the Russian designers, led by Yelena Lenok, appeal to the classical style represented by the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

Other contestants offer a variety of unconventional designs, including a wave-shaped church, a shell-shaped church and a cubic temple. The results of the tender will be disclosed in March 2011. The construction will start early next year.

The new cathedral will become yet another symbol of Russian-French friendship and will add to the list of “Russian landmarks” in Paris which embrace the Alexander III Bridge, laid by the Russian Emperor Nicholas II in honor of the Franco-Russian Alliance in October 1896.

Source: The Voice of Russia
7 January, 2011