Notre-Dame reimagined

The year 2019 will go down in history as the year that Notre-Dame Cathedral was devastated by fire. Before the embers had stopped smoking questions about how to rebuild were being asked. The French senate eventually decreed that it must be returned to the way it looked before, but not before a lot of architects published their visions for how the place of worship could be re-imagined.

Dutch company Concr3de suggested 3D-printed gargoyles, while Studio NAB envisioned a giant greenhouse in place of a roof and Fuksas proposed a spire made of pure crystal.

Wilder suggestions included a swimming pool, a car park and a McDonalds. The craze for re-imagining Notre-Dame peaked when designer Sebastian Errazuriz produced mockups of the cathedral being used as a rocket ship launcher.

Since then suggestions have been more subdued. Gensler designed a temporary worship pavilion that can turn into a market, while Soltani+LeClercq envisioned a huge grey veil to screen the scorched cathedral as it is rebuilt.

Reflective architecture

Shiny surfaces had a moment in 2019. Architect Doug Aitken clad an entire house in the Swiss Alps in mirrors. Called Mirage, it’s walls reflect the snowy mountains while its mirror-panelled interiors create a kaleidoscope effect.

In Beijing, architecture studio MAD added two bubbles wrapped in mirrored stainless steel to a courtyard house. The reflective pods provide extra space while reflecting the historic surroundings.

Chilean architecture studio Pezo von Ellrichshausen experimented with the disorientating effect of mirrors by creating a pavilion in Milan clad in polished stainless steel that cantilevers over the viewer, turning the baroque courtyard upside down in its reflection.

Le Bon Marché department store in Paris had a mirrored cube installation containing a circular skate ramp, designed in a collaboration between Chicago architecture practice MANA and skateboarder Scott Oster. The project was named Retail interior of the year at the 2019 Dezeen Awards.

As a more sombre reflection, architecture studio Counterspace used mirrors to create an installation that reflected the beautiful-but-toxic sunsets caused by mining dump dust in Johannesburg.

Unpaid internships controversy

In 2019 the architecture industry did some soul searching about the ethics of unpaid internships and the culture of long hours.

Debate raged over unpaid internships after it came to light that the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion architect Junya Ishigami had offered them at his studio in Japan. The revelation prompted a larger conversation about the practice of architects working for no, or very little, pay.

Architects and designers in Japan defended the practice as an indispensable part of the system, but Sou Fujimoto’s practice admitted it had stopped its unpaid internship program.

Chilean architecture studio Elemental, led by Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena, pulled its own unpaid internships after getting caught up in the row. But US-based designer Karim Rashid defended not paying his interns, saying it was better value than paying thousands of dollars in university fees.