Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Christchurch's "Cardboard" Cathedral

I wrote about Christchurch last year and commented on the shock I felt at seeing the devastation this city suffered from the massive earthquake of February 2011.
The Anglican Cathedral was the much loved centre piece of
Cathedral Square.  After the earthquake it was so badly damaged
that it is has been deemed irreparable
 I was back there recently and it was good to see that the city's rebuild is progressing well.  It will be a long slow job and, as yet, there is not much to see in the way of new buildings but the city is buzzing.  It has a skyline filled with construction cranes and all around the city foundations are being poured  for new buildings to replace demolished ones. I was particularly interested to see the "Cardboard" or Transitional Cathedral built as a temporary home for Christchurch's Anglican community after their beloved cathedral was devastated in the earthquake that rocked the city.

Designed free of charge by Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, who is well known for his post disaster architecture, and in association with Christchurch architects, Warren and Mahoney, the very name "Cardboard" conjures up an image of a less than substantial,  flimsy structure.  When details emerged of a "cardboard" Cathedral to be built as a temporary replacement for the solid stone Cathedral, a famous icon of the city, many of the public were disbelieving.  And when, during construction and before the roof was completed, some of the cardboard tubes got wet and had to be replaced, they nodded sagely muttering "I told you so".  But how wrong they were.
The simple interior with cardboard tubes beams
 The design of the seats echos the tubular construction


The cathedral is a solid structure built in an A frame style.  The steeply pitched frame consists of 2 foot diameter cardboard tubes which are reinforced with wooden beams and then coated with polyurethane and fire retardants.  The beams, covered by a polycarbonate roof rest on 8 shipping containers which have been converted to provide office space and storage rooms.

The stained glass using images from the old cathedral's rose window

At the entry to the cathedral there is a large brightly coloured stained glass window made up of triangles and featuring images from the rose window in the damaged cathedral.
The Cathedral seats 700 and has been designed to be multi-purpose so that as well as being used for regular church services it also serves as a much needed concert and conference venue.

Even the pulpit is constructed from cardboard tubes
I was mightily impressed by the Cardboard Cathedral.  It is simple in the extreme, a calm, peaceful non-pretentious place.  While debate rages over the future of the old cathedral, although it now appears  that it will be completely demolished, this is an ideal stop-gap measure.  I am betting that the locals become very fond of their Cardboard, Transitional Cathedral and will be reluctant to see it go when they do eventually get a brand new Cathedral in Christchurch's main square, on the site of the old one.