Quake-hit Christchurch to build temporary 'cardboard cathedral'

Story highlights

  • A "cardboard cathedral" has been given the go-ahead for construction in Christchurch, New Zealand
  • The temporary A-framed structure will be finished by the end of 2012
  • The old Anglican cathedral was badly damaged by the 2011 earthquake which struck the city
  • Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Mathews announced in March that the cathedral would be condemned

Fourteen months to the day after an earthquake devastated Christchurch's 19th century cathedral, work is starting on a new center of worship reflecting the spirit of 21st century design.

The "cardboard" cathedral designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is a temporary structure which will accommodate 700 worshipers while a new permanent cathedral is built.

"The Transitional Cathedral is a symbol of hope for the future of this city as well as being sustainable and affordable," Richard Gray from the Transitional Cathedral Group said in a statement.

The A-framed structure, which uses cardboard tubes along with timber, steel and a concrete base, is also the most stable shape for buildings in earthquake zones, according to Ban.

Designed by English architect George Gilbert Scott, Christchurch Cathedral was badly damaged in the earthquake which struck the city on New Zealand's south island on February 22 2011 claiming 185 lives.

The initial 6.3-maginitude shock toppled its spire with aftershocks in the following months causing further destruction, including the west wall and its ornate rose window.

In March this year, Bishop Victoria Matthews announced the cathedral would be demolished because of the "staggering" costs of repair estimated to be up to NZ$100 million ($82 million).

The new building will go up on the site of St John's Latimer Square, another church nearby which also collapsed in the earthquake.

Shigeru Ban's cardboard creation builds on previous work using the material, including paper log houses which provided emergency shelter following the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan and a "paper bridge" which was erected on a site near the Pont du Gard in southern France.

The cathedral is the largest emergency structure he has designed and will cost around NZ$5 million ($4 million) to complete.

"It's a symbol of life. New life in Christ for Christians, and it's right beside a place of death, and life is stronger than death," Bishops Matthews told TVNZ.

The building will also be used for concerts, exhibitions, civic and community events according to the Christchurch Cathedral web site and is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.