Need This New Innovation? A Cardboard Cathedral
Three years ago, on February 22, 2011, a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, causing massive damage to the city center. The iconic Anglican church was designed to look like the Christ Church in Oxford, England and had survived 130 years and several other earthquakes. There was no way to have services in the remains. A new place had to be found while the old cathedral was rebuilt. The answer was a "temporary" structure made of cardboard.
The new structure was designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who donated his time and talent to create the building out of cardboard. He is known for creating post-disaster architecture that can be put up temporarily. Calling this building temporary is a bit of a mislead since it has an estimated lifespan of 50 years. Ban has been working on creating emergency disaster-relief shelters from cardboard since 1986. According to him it is far easier for an earthquake to take down a concrete building than one made of paper.
The building is officially named "The Transitional Cathedral," but it has become colloquially known as the Cardboard Cathedral. Certainly the latter is a catchier name -- and certainly more descriptive of the church.
The structure is an A-frame of metal supports holding up 98 large cardboard tubes. The tubes are coated with waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants. It is also protected by a semi-transparent, polycarbonate cover. There is a 2 inches gap between each of the tubes that allows daylight into the church and makes it glow when lit up at night. The supporting structure is made from 8 steel shipping containers. The entire structure is considered to be one of the most earthquake-proof buildings in Christchurch.
The cardboard cathedral is large enough to seat 700 people -- a good thing since two different Anglican churches are sharing services in the space. Both the Christchurch Cathedral and St. John the Baptist Anglican Church were destroyed during the earthquake. The temporary paper structure will be used by both until a new cathedral is built -- a timeline expected to run at least 10 years. Then the structure will remain the church for the congregation of St. Johns, upon whose land the cardboard cathedral now rests.
To ensure the building has the feel of a church, parishioners are greeted by a myriad of triangular stained glass, each one etched with scenes from the original cathedral. The entire building is one made to be filled with light, both physically and spiritually.
While detractors of the building refer to it as being "kitschy," its unusual building materials and construction have certainly given Christchurch, New Zealand, an unusual new landmark for tourists and postcards, as well as a spiritual home for so many locals. It opened its doors for worship in August 2013.
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