A University of the Free State (UFS) architect graduate, Grant Bicknell, is representing South Africa in GO Architect’s The People’s Notre-Dame Cathedral Design Competition. The competition is for the renewal of the Catholic cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France. This historic masterpiece that began life in 1163 was severely damaged in a devastating fire on 15 April this year. This unfortunate incident also provided opportunities for renewal and Bicknell seized this opportunity by entering the competition for renewal of the iconic building. His work showcases the skill and knowledge gained at UFS. Bicknell currently works for the South African architect company Theunissen Jankowitz Architects, which has branches across the country. Bicknell graduated at the UFS in 2013.His entry is one of 220 entries from across the world. Entries provided an interpretation and presentation of what the roof should look like.Although the winning design will not be used as blueprint to rebuild the roof, it is an opportunity for participants to provide a creative architectural solution. In his design, Bicknell – among others – brought an interfaith space to the table.“The world is going through a phase of turmoil and extremes – whether it be religious, political, environmental or economical. All have the effect of polarising opinions and ideologies,” he explains the aspect. “France is not exempt from these catalysts of change, with anti-immigration sentiment, terrorist attacks and radicalisation all on the rise. “All of these are of great concern to the people of France, resulting in a detrimental breakdown of French public cohesion,” says Bicknell, who originates from the Western Cape.His proposed roof intervention recommends the introduction of a functional spiritual haven housed in the former roof of the Notre Dame, where spiritual and non-spiritual leaders of all backgrounds will spread messages of positivity and acceptance. “This space is intended to be open to people of all religions, backgrounds and cultures, and is placed on top of one of the most recognisable landmarks in France and the world,” he says.