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Last month, images of the burning roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris captured the world’s attention.

Horrified by the devastation, yet also inspired, Napa architect Chris Craiker felt compelled to contribute to the efforts to rebuild the cathedral in a unique way.

Working with his design team at Craiker & Associates, Craiker created his own version of a replacement spire for the famed cathedral.

The French government announced it would host an international contest to redesign the destroyed spire.

“So I wanted to jump in,” said Craiker. “We’ve been working on this since the day of the fire.”

“People are starting to throw things out there. Some are very traditional. I wanted to do something more contemporary,” said Craiker. “The French are not afraid to do something new.”

To create his modern take on the old spire, “We will be looking at materials that are super light and very transparent to keep it as interesting as possible.”

Craiker’s spire, which features a pointed tower circled by golden bands, would be about the same height and diameter of the destroyed spire, “just a new interpretation.” The spire was about 300 feet tall.

“We’ve anointed it the ‘Jewels of Joan of Arc.’”

Joan of Arc was always associated with Notre Dame, said Craiker. “And I just felt like this would be the jewel in the tiara” of the cathedral.

His design is meant to interpret the image of the spire and the fire, he said. “When you see that spire going up in flames, it’s both awe inspiring and sad.”

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“I felt the way the flames were reaching to sky was something that was worth capturing as a piece of art. It was my intention to recreate the image of that spire on fire.” In that way, the fire itself becomes a permanent part of the cathedral.

The actual engineering of the spire is still in the works, he said. It has to be light, yet sturdy.

“We’re figuring it out structurally, but we know we have to fit the code compliance requirements for the historic renovation of the building,” he said.

“We have to make it a fireproof material but with enough strength” to stand in place.

In the past, Craiker, a Napa-based architect of residential and commercial projects, has designed golf courses in Japan. He also designed Hugh Hefner’s famed Grotto backyard pool in the 1970s. If chosen to recreate the Notre Dame spire, this would be his first project in Europe. He has visited the Notre Dame cathedral twice, he said.

The architect estimated it would cost $2 million to create his vision of a new spire.

This new spire would be considered the third at the cathedral. Notre Dame’s original spire, which was also a bell tower, was taken down in the late 1700s. A second spire – the one that burned in April — was created in the mid 1800s.

If his design were chosen, “I’d be very, very thrilled, of course,” said Craiker. “Every architect wants to have something special in their epitaph.”

If not selected, “I’d be honored to be a consultant on the project. If I can contribute, even in the smallest way, I’d be honored. I’d quit my job here and move to Paris.”

The photo simulation with this story has been corrected since first posting. The architect had submitted the image of another French cathedral. 

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.