Shigeru Ban Reinvents Earthquake-Damaged Christchurch With Temporary Cardboard Cathedral

International, Newsletter
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
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Cardboard Cathedral, Exterior (Courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects)

Cardboard Cathedral, Exterior (Courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects)

As a result of a devastating earthquake in February 2011, New Zealand’s Christchurch Cathedral was left critically damaged. After an inconclusive debate about whether to completely tear down, restore, or remodel the original Neo-Gothic cathedral, the people of Christchurch were struck with what might be divine inspiration in the form of a temporary home, the world’s only cathedral constructed extensively of cardboard.  Tourism New Zealand announced the inauguration of Cardboard Cathedral, a replica of the original church constructed of cardboard tubes, timber joints, steel, and concrete.

Cathedral Collapsed by Shock of the Earthquake (Courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects)

Christchurch Cathedral Collapsed by Shock of the Earthquake (Courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects)

Shigeru Ban, a Japanese architect and a leader in “Emergency Architecture,” designed the transitional church as a testimony to the city’s resourcefulness and resolve following the earthquake and aftershocks. The structure involves a triangular profile constructed from 98 cardboard tubes surrounding a colored triangular glass window in the great hall that features images from the original façade’s rose window, which collapsed completely in December 2011. The main hall has a 700-person capacity for events and concerts. To further incorporate recyclable materials, the temporary cathedral also includes eight steel shipping containers that house the chapels.

Cardboard Cathedral Model, Exterior (Courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects)

Cardboard Cathedral Model, Exterior (Courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects)

Designed to last for at least the next two decades, Cardboard Cathedral will remain in place while the original cathedral’s fate is determined. Recently, the rebuilding of the damaged cathedral has been a controversial topic, as critics have already shot down two contemporary designs, deeming them “bizarre” and “architecturally illiterate,” and have called for the building to be restored to its gothic form, originally designed by George Gilbert Scott in the latter half of the 19th Century.

Projected to open in December of last year, the Cardboard Cathedral was subject to a sequence of construction delays and was not officially opened until last week. To celebrate the opening of the cathedral and its architectural splendor and acoustic potential, Joyfully Un-Munted, a concert series of opera, jazz and traditional music is being held through August 15, 2013.

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