The greater point of originality for Tonia Onstad, visiting assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Planning and interim associate dean for graduate studies at the Catholic University, is not how to build the new truss for Notre Dame cathedral. It’s the way it’s built – with architects and builders in harmony, working together rather than separately. “For me, it’s really about industrialization, and how one of the other lecturers said, the architect and the builder split up somewhere in the Middle Ages,” said Onstad. “For me, it’s really about taking opportunities for these two to meet again and have a chance to understand each other a little bit better.” Volunteers lift trusses by hand with ropes. Permission granted by Catholic University of America/Patrick J. Ryan in Washington, D.C., Onstad University and a group of carpenters, architecture students, and volunteers are using 800-year-old methods to rebuild a major component of the cathedral, originally constructed in 1345. Its restoration has attracted significant international attention since a fire In the attic in 2019 in the midst of renovation work. The fire destroyed the iconic lead tower, as well as ‘The Forest’, a group of gables made of old wooden logs from a French forest nearly a thousand years ago. Investigators believe the fire was accidental and started as a result of an electrical circuit problem. Since the fire, millions of dollars have been poured into reconstruction efforts from around the world. French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral in the image of an 1844 design by French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who oversaw restoration work on the cathedral at the time. Macron’s goal is to complete the project for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, a timeline that some experts have deemed unrealistic. In addition, there has been considerable controversy regarding the manner in which the cathedral is to be rebuilt, with some arguing for a more modern building and others striving for historical accuracy and adherence to Viollet-le-Duc’s design. In the end, the historic angle triumphed within reason, while adhering to the new safety standards. So far, workers have cleared the rubble, and construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2022, according to Architectural Digest. With this vision, Onstad and his company found themselves cutting Virginia logs with axes by hand in the shadow of the nearby Church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and using traditional carpentry methods to build brand new truss, which would be 45 feet long and 35 feet long. Some practices include cutting wood by hand with axes rather than power tools, and using medieval carpentry techniques to keep the truss together and in place, and accurate for the times when it was used. It would eventually be installed in Notre Dame Cathedral, which was given as a gift to France. A global icon in May, The Catholic University announced its participation in the program, which is led by Norwell, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit studio Handhouse, in collaboration with local partners, professional carpenters and traditional building experts from across the country. Organizations such as the National Park Service and Charpentiers sans Frontieres (Carpenters Without Borders) helped build the truss. Ohnstad taught a course on the traditional construction of Notre Dame, where students learned ancient carpentry methods, timber harvesting and building techniques, along with creating their own models of the much larger truss that would eventually be placed inside the cathedral. Onstad said she views the rebuilding as an opportunity for all interested students to get involved, including people who might have been left out at the time of the original construction. She said the innovations might not have to do with structure or form, but rather with the inclusion of people, such as people of color, who were left out of the original construction. The truss was completed this week and received the blessing of Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., on August 5 in the cathedral’s shadow. “I think Notre Dame is a symbol of the world, it doesn’t belong to one person, or one rule, or one culture, it belongs to the whole world,” Unstad said.